Kids and Divorce- Make Sure You Know The Facts
It goes without saying that a divorce can be devastating. And never is this more true than when kids and divorce are combined. When parents separate, children may feel grief, anger and abandonment. Often, kids believe that they are at fault; if only they had been better, quieter or more obedient, mom and dad would still be together.
While each child and each family is different, if you are contemplating a divorce, it is important to understand just how children will react. In this article, we will explore some of the ways they may cope with the grief and loss of a divorce and why you want to avoid this life-changing decision.
The Effects of Divorce on Children
Kids and divorce never go well together, but how children react often depends on their age. For very young children such as infants and toddlers, they may not be immediately aware of their parents’ separation. Teens may be better able to understand the reasons for a divorce, but that does not make it any easier for them to accept. Here are some common reactions of children to divorce…
At the preschool age, kids are most likely to believe that they caused the divorce. To cope with their grief and loss, they may revert to baby-like behaviors and suddenly decide they need their old security blanket or a long-forgotten toy. Bed wetting, separation anxiety and disobedience are also common reactions.
Elementary and Middle School
Kids and divorce are particularly difficult at this age. Children in school are old enough to know that their parents are going through a painful period but are not yet sophisticated enough to know why. Regardless of where child custody laws place them, they will feel divided loyalty between their parents. Children this age also often feel embarrassment, resentment and anger after a divorce.
Adolescents are likely to understand the reasons for a separation, but they are not immune to the effects of a divorce. They often feel extreme pressure to step in and replace the parent that is no longer in the house. Children in this age range may question their values regarding marriage and relationships. Other kids may engage in risky behavior such as alcohol and drug abuse to cope with their feelings of depression and anger.
Kids and Divorce – What to Share and How to Share
If you and your spouse are going through a difficult period, it is natural for your kids to wonder if you are going to divorce. After all, many of their friends at school probably come from broken homes and already have to deal with the stress of splitting time between households and splitting devotion between parents.
Kids are very in-tune with their families. Even if you think you have done a good job shielding them from your marital problems, chances are they know something is wrong. Don’t hide that fact from them but rather make it an opportunity to model positive relationship skills. Show them that marriage is not always perfect and takes work. By providing open communication, you also avoid the possibility of your kids assuming that your situation is much worse than it actually is.
If possible, both parents should speak about the kids and divorce together. Reassure them that both parents love them very much and that mom and dad are just going through a rough period. All information should be provided to children at an age appropriate level. Avoid placing blame on the other parent or encouraging your child to take sides. You want to be open with your children that you are working out some issues, but they don’t need a play-by-play of your problems.
While working through your marital problems, here are some good guidelines to remember…
- Avoid arguing with your spouse in front of the children.
- Limit the details you share with your children, even teens and adult children.
- Focus on the positive.
- Maintain a regular routine.
- Avoid overcompensating by relaxing family rules and discipline.
As you consider the issue of kids and divorce, remember that the impact of divorce on children can last long after the initial wound of separation has healed. Many children of divorced parents go on to have divorces themselves later. If your marriage is struggling, please consider these facts about kids and divorce before you decide to end your relationship.
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