The way a divorce affects children is largely dependent on his or her age. There are few shifts that can occur in a family that are as major as a divorce. For a child, a divorce might feel like they are loosing their family. This change forces your child to be a part of two entirely different families, which is a huge adjustment.
It’s not uncommon for children to feel angry, mad, stressed, and sad over the divorce. Your child may even feel that he or she is the one responsible for the divorce. It’s important to see how your child is responding to the situation and to reassure them that it’s not their fault. However, the way your child will react to the situation is largely dependent on their age.
Many people think that a child under the age of one year would not be impacted by a divorce. But, an infant is still fully capable of feeling tension between his or her parents. As a result, it’s not uncommon for babies to become clingy and emotional during a divorce, especially if the divorce is heated.
The best way to lessen the impact of divorce on a baby is to stick to normal routines, provide your baby with items they enjoy playing with, and spend plenty of time comforting them physically and emotionally.
A toddler will have no greater bond than with their parent. Any major arguments or disruptions in their lives will be difficult for them to understand but they will be able to grasp that things are different. During a divorce, a toddler is likely to demand more attention, be resistant to going to sleep alone, and struggle with toilet training. Again, sticking to normal routines and comforting your toddler is the best way to help them ease through the transition.
Preschoolers and Kindergarteners
Preschoolers and kindergarteners will still not be able to understand the concept of a divorce and will likely express resistance to the idea of their parents separating. However, preschoolers and kindergarteners alike may understand the divorce enough to think that they are responsible for it. Make sure you are constantly comforting them letting them know that the divorce is not their fault. Age appropriate books may help them to better understand the topic. Above all, try to keep their routine similar to what it was before to help them with the transition.
Elementary aged children can easily develop feelings of abandonment during a divorce, especially if they grew up in a nurturing home environment. By this age, children can begin to better understand what a divorce is and the ramifications of it. However, they may take things in their mind too far. For example, if they are told that their parents are divorcing and they will be living with their mother, they may start to think that they will lose their father forever.
Many children this age will fantasize about their parents getting back together and may even try to help them do so in real life. However, they may also lash out at others, such as classmates and family, out of anger and stress. Be aware that they may experience depression or anxiety and could need help dealing with these emotions.
It will be the parents responsibility to collectively rebuild their child’s self-esteem. Visitation hours should be adhered to strictly and extracurricular activities can help to ease the transition.
No matter your child’s age, he or she will be aware that something has changed. Take their feelings and emotions into consideration and try to ease into this new situation.