Divorce is, for children, a devastating experience. Most parents, fortunately, are more than ready to take time out from their own personal tensions to prioritize the task of guiding their kids through the trauma. It is important at these times to think clearly and to see things from the child’s point of view, but that point of view changes rapidly in the child’s developing mind.
It’s About Feelings
In times of extreme stress, emotions are never far from the surface. Remember that the relationship between feelings and facts is an unpredictable one, especially in a child.
Because divorce affects feelings in so many different ways, it will help if you can find an attorney who has an understanding of the way divorce affects those around, whether you are approaching an online practitioner such as www.divorceguru.com or using a family attorney.
Up to about 18 months, a baby has very little conceptual framework to guide her. Everything is centered on the security represented by the primary care-giver, usually the mother. She responds quickly to unspoken tension and may become clingy and tearful.
As the toddler begins to master language, he gets a better sense of the world, but it is a world that is all about him. His parents are the two closest and largest planets in this little solar system so any disruption is going to throw him out of balance. He may retreat to a former secure existence by temper displays and regression to baby behavior.
The child’s imagination is growing, which means she can extend the present distress into the future and conceive of more and worse things happening. So her life can be taken up with fear. Will she ever see the absent parent again? Will both parents disappear from her life? She does not have much concept of time or distance, so separation may seem more absolute and final than it actually is. She needs her parents to be predictable and reliable.
As the child grows, his center of life is beginning to move outwards, but only from a secure base. If that base is challenged by parents separating, he may use his growing mental abilities to protect himself. He may retreat into a fantasy world and deny the reality of what is happening around him, or construct scenarios where he is to blame.
The child is on the verge of big changes, and taking tentative steps to discover her place in the world. The last thing she needs is for her parents’ problems to take center stage in her life. So she is likely to display intense anger which can reveal itself in many ways, but at the same time she is learning to empathize and understand their pain.
The effects of a divorce can reverberate for a lifetime, and nobody handles it perfectly. For parents, an effort to understand how their children are perceiving the situation can help to ease the pain and give them the resources to move forward.
Joanne Morrison shares her tips and support regarding divorce and stepfamilies. She uses her own life experiences to write informative articles which appear online at family and parenting blogs as well as relationship and divorce focused blogs.