Navigating The Effects Of Divorce With Your Children
No matter what a child’s age, separation or divorce is going to be the catalyst for big change in the life of a child, teen or adolescent.
From the daily absence of one parent to adjusting to life between two households, and witnessing the loss of love between two parents, it’s only natural to expect the impact of separation or divorce on a child will be significant.
Parents can expect different impacts depending on the child’s age. For example, a young child may exhibit more dependent and regressive tendencies, whereas, for an adolescent, you may see an acceleration of independence and likely a more aggressive response.
For a young child, their life of dependency has suddenly been divided in two, in a very undependable manner. Learning to adjust to two households can create unfamiliarity, instability and insecurity.
It would not be surprising for your young child to react to their new home environment with anxiety and uncertainty, which can present itself with behaviours such as bed-wetting, tantrums, whining, crying at bed time and increased clinginess.
With older children and adolescents, it’s common to witness a more aggressive reaction, with behaviour exhibiting rebellion and disregard for family discipline. They may view a separation as a failure on the parents’ part to take care of the family, therefore focusing on “taking care of myself” regardless of the consequences or impacts on other members of the family.
Acts of defiance and entitlement, distancing themselves from their parents and siblings and focusing on their own self-interest can be expected from an adolescent in the midst of their parents’ divorce or separation.
4 Tips To Help You Navigate A Divorce Or Separation
- Open the Lines Of Communication. Parents must open the lines of communication and strive to be as honest, and up-front with their children, in an age-appropriate manner.
- Establish A New Pattern And Stick To It. Establishing a sense of family order and predictability will be essential – this will help to restore a child’s sense of security, familiarity and dependency. Household and visitation routines will be an important part of this predictability and should be carried out consistently and without conflict between the parents.
- Don’t Stop Working On Your Parenting. Throughout the separation or divorce process, it is also imperative that parents’ fundamental approaches to behavior, discipline and general parenting styles remain in tact. In short, it can be harmful if one parent is suddenly allowing a child to “get away with” things they wouldn’t have before, as it can undermine the other parent’s rules and expectations and send mixed messages.
- Get Help. Seeking help from experienced educators and counsellors is especially important in the early stages of a separation or divorce – tools and skills to help a child wade through the waters of divorce and the uncertainty, stress and anxiety that can come as a result are valuable for all parents.