Divorce or separation Help for Children
The breakup of a family is a huge transition for everyone involved. For children, it can be particularly confusing, and fearful as they face the prospect of life- without mom and dad together. Some parents choose not to let their children be part of the process and hide it from them until the inevitable, and others make it a family affair inviting all participants to share and bring forth their grievances.
Is one way better than the next? This is a question we will attempt to ponder in this article. At the core of this question is “what is best for the child”. If parents can keep this mind while negotiating the terms of separation and divorce, it will yield the best result.
To know what’s best for the child, we need to know what the child is feeling and thinking. The feelings children have towards separation/divorce ultimately depend on how old they are. Different stages come with different feelings.
Infants and toddlers
Children this young don’t quite understand what‘s going on in their world. However, they are very connected to the emotions of the parent. If a parent starts to feel depressed, angry, abandoned etc., children this age are very sensitive to these feelings and will react to it.
Big Feeling – SENSITIVE
Preschoolers: Ages 3 to 5
At this stage, the world revolves around little Tommy, at least that’s how he sees it. Children this age become very self-centred believing they have control over or are the cause of the experiences around them. As a result, children may believe they are the reason why mommy and daddy are divorcing and take it to heart literally. They perceive themselves as responsible for Mommy crying or daddy yelling.
Big Feeling -RESPONSIBLE
School-age children: Ages 6 to 8
School age children are beginning to see the world in a bigger and broader way. They are now more complex and may feel guilty believing they caused the conflict between mom and dad. Their little minds struggle to grasp that they can love both parents- and shoulder the guilt of feeling they have to choose one parent over the other. Anxiety, worry and sadness may creep in as they start to ponder how life will change- where will they live, who will pick them up from school etc. These questions can cause a great deal of stress on children this age as they become anxious about the future. The need for security may have them idealizing the reconciliation of Mom and dad
Big Feeling: GUILT and WORRY
Pre-teens: Ages 9 to 12
During the pre-teen years, children are able to discern things are not going well. They are also able to draw boundaries between their issues and their parent issues. However, they are much more judgmental.. Pre- teens are much more inflexible in their thinking and may conclude that situations or people are good or bad, wrong or right, and there is no grey in between. This could spiral into feeling exceptionally angry at one or both parents or feeling torn between both parents
Big Feeling: DIVIDED
Teenagers: Ages 13 to 19
The teenage years are filled with all kinds of changes-developmentally, physically, socially. Teens are undergoing all types of transitions and mom and dad separating is just one more change they have to compute . At this stage, teens may be shocked that it’s actually happening having lived all these years with mom and dad. A strong belief may be “why after all this time” or “Couldn’t you try harder”. They may start to doubt the value of relationships or even struggle with trusting period.
Big Feeling: DISTRUSTING
You may find that it’s easier to support your child if you can understand the feelings they are experiencing. There are many generalisations made about separation and its impact on children. However, the only way to really know what is happening to your child is to sit down and explore their feelings without judging them or justifying yourself.
If you and your family are undergoing separation or divorce and need support going through the process, Positive Kids can help. Call us today at 866-503-7454