Perhaps that most overlooked aspect of divorce is the disillusionment and disbelief that occurs in the lives of the children of the former couple. Adults are affected as well, but saw all of the warning signs that the relationship shows in its dissolution. Children, on the other hand, lack neither the foresight nor the intuition to prepare them for the worst. Even as adolescents, the realization of the divorce contrasts sharply with the practicality of moving on with one’s own life, in spite of the fact that their parents’ lives have been altered dramatically.
Typically, a few things come to mind when you think about how to ease the blow to the children. “It isn’t your fault or anything that you did”, or “daddy/mommy isn’t coming back home, or doesn’t want to be here anymore”. When you consider that such responses bear a striking resemblance to what your mate told you when your former relationships didn’t work out it is no wonder why someone who isn’t even mature enough, or of age, to have their own intimate relationship would be confused by such responses. What needs to occur is a differentiation of feelings towards your spouse, as opposed to the child’s feelings towards a caretaker.
For example teachers should be told when parents are separating or divorcing, while this doesn’t seem to be relevant in the midst of the separation process, it helps administrators to understand changes in a child’s behavior, in which they can be more supportive, so that they can prevent additional problems (such as fights or defiant actions) from occurring. Anyone who doesn’t already know about the problems in the relationship soon will as the emotions your child has internalized about the issue play out in the form of hostile, aggressive or indifferent behavior, towards others. Sometimes the children think that they can be on their best behavior, a form of their trying to get the two of you back together.
Help Guide.Com offers some practical advice on what to do, and what not to do, in the event of a divorce.
Do not argue with the individual or bad-mouth them in front of the children. Even more importantly, do not force them to choose sides. Your child’s relationship with the parent is going to continue, even if yours is not. It isn’t fair that the child is forced to make decisions that coincide with your own, which often includes the practice of having the child act as an intermediary.
It is best to tell the children collectively, particularly seeing that, as parents, discipline is handled in a rather clear and concise manner; informing the child of the divorce should be a continuum of having communicated everything else to the child, in that way. Find support services for the child and therapy for you and them both, when necessary.
As mentioned earlier children are going to react in a myriad of ways, including self-abuse, depression, and sexual activity. If you can identify the depression, you might be able to keep the abuse and sexual activity from occurring. From my own personal experience (with myself), signs of depression include withdrawal and a loss of spontaneity, as well as anger and irrationality, (anxiety). When your child isn’t sleeping or indulging in the chocolate cake a little too much (when they aren’t hungry), you’ve got a problem.
Finally, you’re going to have to find ways for the two of you to continue parenting without putting additional stress upon the children. Scheduling, finances, and differences of opinions about the rules they must abide by aren’t, and should not be, opportunities for you to discuss creative differences you have with this individual to the children.
AAMFT suggests that you take advantage of special Court-connected divorce education programs for additional support and direction outside of whatever resources you are already utilizing. Depending on the situation, these programs may be required by the court. Finally, the University of Missouri , has a practical guide on the subject that includes questions a child may have, from their own point of view, labled “What I need from my mom and dad”. Remember that other relationships, such as those between siblings, are affected as well.
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