Once the divorce is over, now comes the third - and most important - part of the divorce process: rebuilding your life after a failed marriage. As difficult and hectic as things might have been up to this point, it is what happens now that is likely to have the biggest impact on your children's future. This is because the environment you create after divorce usually lasts a lot longer than the process itself.
In our book 'Child Maltreatment: A Cross-Comparison,' we devote a chapter to research which has shown that even mildly negative environments can cause far more harm to kids than experiencing isolated traumatic events. This is because traumatic life events, no matter how unpleasant, tend to be limited in nature, whereas environmental deficiencies are with us much longer, and thus can have a more powerful impact on a child's psychology. Think about it this way: if you set sail across the ocean with a good compass and encounter a storm, that temporary disruption can throw you off track. Yet once the storm blows over you can recover and reach your destination no worse for the ware. But if you set out across the Atlantic and encounter clear skies all the way, yet your compass is 1 degree off, you'll end up far more lost and much farther off course, because the bad compass exerts a continuous pull over a much longer time.
A similar principle holds true for children. Research reveals that even seemingly subtle deficiencies in the environment can be far more harmful than experiencing temporary traumas, because these occur over an extended period of time. Persistent deficits in the environment have more power to shape a child's psychology, to bathe their brain in ongoing stress chemicals, or to create conditioned social/emotional responses that impair their future. Divorce was the storm that blew you off course. But now it's time to readjust your compass and ensure that life after divorce doesn't create long-term detriments for you or your kids. The following chapters are designed to help you accomplish this.
Chapter 14 talks about rebuilding your life after divorce, from the basics of starting over to the different forms that family can take after divorce, and which ones you should strive for.
Chapter 15 discusses how your life as parents will change after divorce, and ways that you can make up for this and keep quality of care high.
Chapter 16 discusses the ins and outs of co-parenting, from what it takes to effectively parent across two households to tips for staying on the same page with your parenting partner.
Chapter 17 discusses ideas for staying connected to your kids in split-custody or visitation arrangements.
Chapter 18 provides information on how you can make child custody and visitation schedules easier on the whole family.
Chapter 19 discusses some of the common child behavioral problems that arise after divorce, and offers tips for how to best manage misbehaving children.
Finally, chapter 20 talks about dating and stepfamily situations, offering guidelines on how to best manage the new people that enter a child's life in the post-divorce years.