How to Handle a Divorce: What's Best for a Child

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When parents are going through a divorce, their child’s best interests should be their primary consideration. As a parent, it may seem difficult to handle the stress and disappointment of divorce and focus on what’s best for your child, but it is necessary. Divorce can negatively affect children emotionally, socially and academically. In order to avoid these issues and unnecessary stress on your child, take some precautions around certain flashpoints.


Each divorce is different, and individual factors will influence what custody arrangement is determined to be best for your child. However, in the majority of divorces, the child benefits from having some contact with both parents. Other factors that should be taken into consideration include which parent has the most time for the child, what arrangement the child prefers and which parent can support the child emotionally and financially.

Parental Relocation

The child's reaction to relocating or to a parent moving away should always be acknowledged and taken into consideration. In a 2003 issue of the Journal of Family Psychology, a study conducted by Sanford Braver and colleagues found that parent relocation after a divorce was linked to more general stress and fewer reports of the relocated parent being seen as a positive role model. Being far away from one parent could also result in the child feeling as if he has been abandoned.


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Conflict between parents can be harmful to children during a divorce. Avoid arguing in front of your child and attempt to handle the separation as amicably as possible. Parents should never make a child feel as if she has to pick one side or the other in the divorce. According to a 2004 report by the American Psychological Association, low levels of parental conflict during and after a divorce are key factors in a child's post-divorce adjustment


Keeping lines of communication open will help your child understand what is happening and that he can come to you with concerns or questions regarding the divorce. This makes the situation less stressful and will deter some emotional and behavioral issues that can result from divorce. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry suggests that parents be alert for signs of distress in their child and encourages them to seek therapy when needed.