As a parent, it is difficult to know just how a divorce affects a child, especially if children are too young to understand or vocalize their feelings, or if they are older and do not want to talk to parents.
However, knowing how your child feels can be crucial for parents who want to protect them throughout this process. Below are some suggestions to help parents understand what a child might need and experience during a divorce.
Consider their age
Age is a major factor in your child’s perspective of divorce. This Parents article discusses in more detail how children of different ages respond to divorce, but generally, consider the following notes:
- Babies can sense disruption and tension, even though they do not know the reason behind it. Focus on providing loving care, consistency and frequent interactions with familiar loved ones.
- Toddlers and preschoolers can feel heavy emotions without understanding them or knowing how to share them. They can feel scared, angry and like they caused the divorce. There may regress to old behaviors and crave attention. Parents should be open with these children. Reading books, talking about your child’s feelings and reassuring them that the divorce is not their fault can be critical.
- School-age children are more likely to blame divorce on one parent or feel that they have the power to reunite parents. Children this age might act out by fighting or engaging in risky behaviors; some become depressed or anxious. These responses can become more prevalent when kids are pre-teens or teenagers. Parents can combat this by spending quality time with kids and focusing on rebuilding their self-esteem and sense of identity.
However old your children may be at the time of divorce, understand that they are going through a significant life event without having much – or any – control. And divorce can shake their confidence in themselves and their family.
Thus, one of the most valuable things you can do is talk to your children about how they feel or connect them with a counselor. Additionally, parents who keep their arguments and divorce-related discussions away from children can be protecting them from unnecessary stress and resentments.
While every family and every child is different, parents who make an effort to understand their child’s perspective and communicate effectively with them can make it easier for everyone to move forward.