Helping Children Cope With Their Parents' Divorce
Divorce and young children are two things that are individually complicated. Put them together? You've got a potential powder keg of emotions and the lives and futures of more than just yourself to deal with.
To deal with divorce you need to be able to figure out how to divide property, lives and loved ones, a tricky combination during the best of times. To deal with young children, on the other hand, you have to understand their developmental stage, their personality, their temperament and their relationships with each parent. As you can imagine, both of these are challenging to deal with on their own, however, things are complicated exponentially when they are mixed.
Divorce Effects Children of All Ages
Parents need to understand how to deal effectively with young children and divorce. Infants that have parents going through a divorce will not be able to understand what is going on. They don’t know what a divorce is. However, they can sense changes in mom and dad’s emotional state and the energy that they are giving off.
Because of this, they may respond by being fussier than normal, their sleeping schedule may be thrown off and they may be anxious around new people and situations. You can improve how well your baby handles the divorce by trying to keep their normal daily schedule intact, by providing them with extra attention and cuddling and by gradually introducing them to new adults.
Even toddlers will be more aware of the changes that occur because of a divorce. They will notice when one parent moves out of the house, they will be aware when your emotional state is strained and they will be aware of changes in the daily routine.
In response to the conditions caused by the divorce, they may try to comfort you when you are sad, they may become anxious when they are left at the babysitters, they may cry and cling to you when you take them to their other parent’s home, their sleep/wake schedules may be disrupted and they may have frequent sleeping issues like wetting the bed, having nightmares and being restless.
To minimize the problems that your toddler develops, parents need to understand how they can more effectively deal with young children and divorce. Help your toddler to adjust to the changes caused by divorce by comforting them, by talking openly about the divorce, by acknowledging their feelings, by spending quality time with them and by keeping things as consistent as possible between your home and your former spouse’s home.
Studies have shown that for both babies and toddlers it is important for the leaving parent to be present every day in their child's life, either by giving them breakfast before work and taking taking them to their day care center or person who will take take of them during the day when both parents work, or giving them dinner and putting them to bed.
Divorce and Older Children
Young children and divorce gets slightly more difficult to manage as the children get older. This is because as children develop, they have a better understanding of what is going on and they also have a deeper emotional response to divorce. Preschoolers, for example, are able to understand that their parents will no longer be living together, they will recognize the changes that are made to their schedule and to their living arrangements.
Preschoolers may have a more intense emotional reaction to your divorce than younger children will. They may worry more, they may blame themselves, they may have nightmares, they may cry more, they may act out and they may believe that you and your ex-spouse will get back together. To help your preschooler adjust better to your divorce you will want to talk with them about the divorce, you will need to tell them that you still love them and that their other parent still loves them, you will want to spend time playing games together or participating in special activities together and you will want to maintain a consistent schedule.
What do you think? What can parents do to help their children cope with divorce? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.