Whether you're simply contemplating ending your marriage or are in the midst of a divorce, one issue that's likely forefront in your mind is how it may affect your children. No matter how certain you are that a divorce is what's best for both you and your family, no matter how sure you are that you're working toward a brighter, more stable future for everyone, there's probably still a part of you that worries over how your kids will adjust and whether they'll be all right.
Good news. Not only does this worrying simply mean that you're a good parent, it may also mean it could be unlikely your divorce is going to traumatize your children. Recent studies have demonstrated that it's not the divorce itself that negatively affects kids, it's how the adults handle the situation. Of course, the changes divorce brings will mean some adjustments for everyone, not least of all the kids, but if know what to watch out for and how to respond accordingly, you may be able to put your kid in a strong position to handle the divorce and the transitions it brings.
Common childhood reactions to divorce
All children are different and will respond differently to the news that their parents are splitting up. However, there are some common reactions and behaviors that many children tend to display, and knowing what signs to watch out for and what issues may arise could help you recognize when your child is having a tough time adjusting, especially during the first six months.
For example, a very common childhood worry after divorce is a fear of abandonment that may leave your child extra needy or clingy, or even regressing to an earlier developmental stage; however, as time passes, your unconditional love and reassurance could help your children realize you aren't going to leave them behind. Other things to watch out for include:
- Uncertainty about the future
- Lashing out
- Magical thinking
- Rapidly changing emotions
Your reassurance and stability could help your child work through his or her new -- but likely temporary -- uncertainty about the future. Your love, along with increased patience, can be especially important if your child begins lashing out at you, even though it's that very same unconditional love that probably allows him or her to feel secure enough to act out with you. Additionally, you'll want to make sure that your children aren't connecting dots that aren't there and magically convincing themselves that they're somehow to blame for the divorce.
Insecurities may also manifest in your child, quickly bouncing from one extreme emotion to another, or, contrarily, a sudden apathetic attitude, either directly in response to questions, or indirectly, such as losing interest in schoolwork or previous favorite pastimes. This apathy is usually temporary but -- if it continues -- can be a sign of depression, in which case you might need to discuss the issue with a pediatrician and enlist the help of a counselor.
The bottom line
For the most part, these behaviors are simply a kid's way of letting you know he or she is having some trouble adjusting and may need extra attention and support for a while. The important thing to remember is that these reactions may not just be normal, they can also be temporary, and with your help and love, your child may be able to navigate them in a successful manner. The transition period during and immediately after divorce may be rough, but there are things you can do to help both you and your family with the process.
On the bright side, while you're working toward a more stable future for both you and your children, knowledgeable Florida professional in the West Palm Beach area can concentrate on the legal side of things for you. A practice with experience in family law can have resources and skills that could prove invaluable to your family during this time.