As a responsible parent, you’ve probably heard the term “adverse childhood experiences,” or ACEs.
These are approximately ten (depending on what list you look at) experiences that can cause toxic stress in children that contributes to emotional, social and even physical problems as adults.
These ACEs primarily include sexual, physical or emotional abuse or neglect that children experience or witness in their home. Even if the child themselves isn’t abused or neglected, seeing a parent go through it can cause unresolved childhood trauma. Parental incarceration, mental illness and substance abuse are also considered ACEs. So is parental divorce.
Certainly divorce doesn’t have to be as damaging to a child as these other ACEs. That’s largely up to the parents. If the only ACE a child experiences is their parents’ divorce, it doesn’t have to be harmful to their health and well-being, either in the present or when they become adults. However, divorce often accompanies one or more other ACEs.
Many parents would be shocked to learn that divorce is also named as an ACE. While, on its own, it’s not as serious as the others, it often accompanies one or more of them. As noted, multiple ACEs can be particularly damaging to a person throughout their life.
One way that parents can help prevent their divorce from becoming an adverse childhood experience for their kids is by working together to negotiate the terms of that divorce, with legal guidance, outside of court. A collaborative divorce or mediation is far less combative, stressful and costly than a litigated one.
Alternative divorce resolution (ADR), as these options are often referred to, isn’t for every couple. However, it’s worthwhile to learn more about ADR and determine whether it’s right for you and your family.