The objective of this article is to identify some of the issues that can create depression in post divorce adjustment and methods to ameliorate it.
By: Susan Adams, M. Ed.
Summary: A major issue in post divorce adjustment relates to the support system. Unfortunately, our society does not have rituals around marriages that end as it does for deaths of family members and other life cycle transitions. The family of origin and extended family members become key to helping the family in transition.
Divorcing families certainly do not receive the kind of support that families get when there is a death. The natural sense of isolation is heightened by the frequent awkwardness of friends who don’t know what to say, are afraid of taking sides, or are worried that “divorce” might be contagious. There is also the tendency to people to want to socialize with people like themselves. Therefore, married couples tend to socialize with each other.
Thus, divorced adults are going to need to find other adults in their situation who can relate to their situation. Unfortunately, married adults may fear that a single person may be a threat to their marriage. Older children, especially, may look to peers who have experienced divorce in their families. Parents can certainly advocate for support groups in schools to help the process move more quickly for their children. Adults can look for support groups in religious venues. This covers the support issue emotionally and also allows a newly divorced person to begin to make new friends and share activities in a new climate.
Unfortunately, our society does not have rituals to deal with the end of a marriage. Such rituals do help to aid transition for families. With this in mind, families can make their own creative rituals to help move ahead and “bury” the unhappiness of the past while heading into the future and seeing the new life as a “rebirth” of optimism.
Parents have to learn to be single again. There is the process of initiating contacts with former friends to find out “who is there for you” rather than whose taking sides with whom.
This is the place for finding new social groups as mentioned earlier.
Due to the isolation that families often experience, they may turn inward to meet social needs. This can put a lot of pressure on children to perform as inappropriately as adults in the family in order to meet the needs of their parents. This causes children to lose their childhood and closes off the family system to outsiders.
Frequently, divorcing parents turn to their family of origin for support. Thus, the children may get closer to grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins than they were prior to the divorce. The problem here is that in today’s mobile society, family members may not be close enough to offer the support that is needed. On the other hand, communication is so much less expensive and easier, creative methods can be used to bring extended family “closer”.
Parents will need to guard against the natural tendency of the extended family to “take their side” and in so doing disparage the other parent in front of the children. It needs to be the role of parents to educate the extended family on the need for the children to maintain the best possible relationship with both their parents.
Part of ANY readjustment period when depression may be an issue, is a good exercise program. The exercise helps to keep the brain producing plenty of Serotonin which is the chemical that allows for optimism. So, exercise, new social groups, plenty of conversation with adults who can be supportive, the creation of a ritual to signify that the family is moving on, and the support of extended family should give the family adjusting to a divorce a good foundation for the best start possible at a new life.