As discussed in a previous blog, divorce can have a huge impact on the children involved, and can even put their health at risk. Often, these health risks are a result of the increased stress the children of divorce have to deal with as they navigate their new post-divorce lives. A recent study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health found that teen children of divorced parents have an increased risk of psychosomatic symptoms (defined in the article as physical problems caused by mental distress). Divorce May Increase Psychosomatic Symptoms in Teens: Study , by Robert Preidt, health.usnews.com, April 28, 2015.
The results were fairly straightforward – teens who lived primarily with one parent due to divorce/separation showed the most psychosomatic symptoms. Conversely, teens who lived in an intact household with both parents had the fewest symptoms. Those children of divorced parents who shared joint custody were somewhere in the middle. According to the researchers, psychosomatic symptoms are related to stress, which can be caused by going back and forth between two different homes. The researchers hypothesized that the “stress may be reduced by maintaining close contact with both parents.”
So, as a divorced, or divorcing, parent, what can you do to help your child deal with this stress? In many situations, joint physical custody (where the children spend nearly equal time with each parent) is not feasible due to where each parent lives, the kids’ school schedules, and the parents’ work schedules. However, it is important to come up with a visitation schedule wherein the children see both parents regularly. If regular physical visitation is not possible, the children should be given the opportunity to see the other parent via FaceTime or other similar technology. Fortunately, we live in a time where there is technology to facilitate visitation even if the parent and child are not physically together. In addition, parents should not make any negative comments about each other in the presence of the children. Rather, regardless of their feelings toward each other, both parents should do their best to foster the relationship between the children and the other parent. According to these studies, it could greatly benefit the health of the children both now and in the future.