Divorce has been compared to grieving the death of someone close. It is the death of a marriage relationship. While it is hard on the two people involved, the situation can be just as difficult for your child or children. Their behavior patterns are not designed to make this process harder for you. In fact, it can be viewed as your child’s way of grieving something that they have lost as well – a parent in the home.
A Problem Created by Grief
Divorce is an emotional, psychological, physical and often spiritual trial. Everything that you once knew as safe and stable is now in upheaval. The same goes for your child. Even though they may be young or not aware of the intimate details of the marriage issues, they are affected by the fallout. Parents often forget that.
Not discussing the situation with your child doesn’t make it any easier on them. Parents often make mistakes in this area, partly due to their grief:
- One parent may try to bribe their child to like them better than the other parent
- Each parent speaks negatively of the other
- Parents argue in front of their children
- The stress of the situation causes parents to lash out at their children
In each case, the underlying message that the child is taking away from it all is that “they” are the reason for their parents’ unhappiness. What must that burden do to a child?
Children of Divorce and Behavior Issues
We know what it does to a child. It makes them change. They develop certain types of behavior that are typical of a child living in a divorcing or divorced household.
Antisocial behavior – Your child withdraws from his (or her) friends or from activities that he once loved.
Disruptive behavior – A child may get into trouble at school, starting fights, talking back and generally being annoying to others.
Depression – Children become moody, short-tempered, and argumentative, the opposite of whom they were before this all began. They may experience nightmares and distrust of those close to them.
How to Help Your Child
There are a few things that parents can do to assist their child with handling the divorce.
Acknowledge the problem – Discuss the issue together with your child on a level that they can understand. Let them know what is happening and that it is not their fault although their life will change as a result.
Stay constant for your child – Even though you are disagreeing about the marriage, both parents can agree on how to parent their child. Stay in tandem when it comes to disciplining, showing affection for and interacting with your child.
Routine – If dad takes Billy to school then dad still needs to do it during and after the divorce. You are not leaving your child so don’t make them feel like you are.
Divorce is rough for all family members involved, including your child.