Navigating Social Awkwardness for Children of Divorce

  • Children rely on the routine of school and their social life, especially during a parental divorce.
  • Children will be forced to deal with awkward and tough questions from peers and teachers, regarding the divorce.
  • Co-parenting with understanding will help their transition and create a safety net at home, away from the social awkwardness.

"In the presence of a divorce, change is constant agent of chaos for children."

For a child of divorce, it can be difficult enough, navigating the logistical parts of your life, as it transitions into having two homes, having two places to spend holidays, and having new relationships enter and exit the lives of your newly-single parents. It can be equally as challenging wading through the social waters when your parental divorce comes up.

Divorce has long carried a social stigma, due to the value of marriage as a cultural, religious, and social institution. For the children of the adults going through the divorce process, they are having their own experience, where they are forced to allow their parents’ divorce into their own world.

Importance of school, social life

One of the main ways this occurs is through their interactions at school. Whether it is a child asking about coming over or a question about where the other parent may be during a school function, it is going to come up, and a child is going to have to have that conversation with the questioning party.

This can cause a level of social anxiety, that many children may not yet be prepared for. During the process of parental divorce, children can face questions of where they are going to live and whether or not they will have to transfer schools. While there are other, sometimes bigger, questions that affect their lives, children are not necessarily always thinking big picture. They are seeing as how it may affect their school life, which is the one part of their daily routine that, at the moment, they feel in control of.

Emotions and activities

In the presence of a divorce, change is constant agent of chaos for children. While the emotions may differ, depending on the individual children and the corresponding situation, children are not necessarily always the most enthusiastic to the changes necessary to accommodate custody and visitation. They are on their own routine and schedules, and they also participate in their own activities that require time commitments, similar to that of visitation.

Many children rely on these activities, in order to maintain their own social life and maintain their own routine. In times, of chaos, that can often be all they have, so as a parent, do not be discouraged by your child’s possible unwillingness to cooperate. It may not even you.

Parental problems

No matter who instigated what or who caused the divorce in the first place, it is hopefully understood that both co-parents love their kids and do not wish them to go through the social awkwardness of navigating their own actions. Unfortunately, they may not have a choice, as children can be confronted with the parental separation during some of the most mundane activities during the school year, like getting a permission slip signed for an upcoming field trip or calling a parent to pick them up from school because they feel sick.

Some of these types of decisions require a certain amount of autonomy to make decisions, which can often be difficult with a custody case ever-present. Children are forced to witness some of the fallout of these decisions, if a school gives a parent permission to do something that a custodial parent may or may not necessarily approve of.  They can find themselves watching a parent be denied, due to the decisions of the opposite parent, and that can have an adverse effect on a child’s opinion of either parent.

It can get even worse at times for children of divorce when a parent who did not previously work, has to maintain a job. If the children are old enough to understand the value of money, it can add pressure and nervousness, regarding a parent’s financial future and present financial state.

The extra worry of finances can add an agent of chaos to the complexity of a child’s life, as they have to balance their own school work, social life, extracurricular activities, visitation schedule of the noncustodial parent, time with the custodial parent, and any tension or aggression from the parents, as a result of their divorce and custody situation. That’s a lot for children to maintain.

Embracing understanding

One of the more effective ways to go about this transition during this difficult time is with understanding toward your children. This is a situation created by the adults in their lives, and it is difficult enough without having two co-parents fight and make them feel worse.

If the co-parents can maintain a sense of civility during this important transitional period for their children, it would help ease them into their new situation. As co-parents, being able to communicate your observations will help better one another during custody exchanges of moods and feelings. It also can help keeping the other informed of any behaviors that may require attention or disciplining.

With all of the social awkwardness that children will face when they experience a parental divorce, you, as a parent, already understand that they are experiencing enough negative or difficult emotions as is. Adding to it, with an uncooperative discourse with a co-parent can only make things more challenging on them.

The goal of any transitional period during a parental divorce is making as easy as possible for the children involved, and for children, their reliance on the routine of their own social circles can be everything. Instead of interrupting it, contribute to it. Go to their dance recital. Cheer them on at their football game. Pick them up from choir practice. Let your children embrace their routine and avoid the social awkwardness surrounding their parental divorce. In doing so, you will create a healthier environment for them to embrace the transition of their new life.

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