We tend to think of children as being more resilient than adults, but when it comes to divorce, the age of the child when the split happens will create differing levels of stress and trauma. Divorce affects more than one million children in the United States each year. It is useful to have tips on how it may impact your child and signs to look for as they are coping with the emotional and psychological effects during this difficult time.
While parents in Florida and elsewhere must focus on a range of challenges in a break-up, whether it is keeping or selling the family home, future financial hurdles, or childcare and visitation issues, it is different for the child. The level of security and safety they feel is in relation to their age and the bond they have with their parents, and how this may change with divorce.
How does communication help?
Once a plan is in place, the parents should sit down together, if possible, to calmly explain what is happening. Letting the children know the timesharing arrangement in detail, who they will live with when and where and what the schedule will be will help them to make plans for activities related to school, friends and other activities.
Children will need to know that their parents love them regardless of what is happening, and that they have done nothing to cause the divorce. For parents, keeping their strong emotions out of the picture and not blaming each other will help to keep the children out of an emotional tug of war.
Are there signs of distress to look for?
A child reacts differently to divorce depending on the life stage they are in, as well as their personality. Younger children may suffer separation anxiety and temporary regression, while school-aged and adolescent children may internalize sad and angry emotions that can affect their academic performance and relationships. Some of the signs of distress that can manifest include:
- in children under 3, clingy behavior, bed-wetting, temper tantrums, sadness and fearful behavior
- for school-aged children, moodiness and withdrawal from social interactions, lower grades, choosing sides between the parents, and fantasizing about the parents getting together again
- in adolescents, depression, aggression, risky behaviors and trouble with focus in school
How can you help?
Children need routines, so it is important to have them in place, including regular activities outside of school. Letting your child talk about their feelings will help them keep from internalizing negative emotions. Finally, seeking guidance from family counselors as well as divorce groups for both children and single parents can help support the parents in this process.