Divorce and the Child's Emotions
Any divorce, even those where the two parents get along comes with issues relating to the children and their emotions. Unfortunately, the children are always involved, even if to a small degree. Most often, children in the middle of a divorce will go through a number of different emotions to include anger, rejection, abandonment, embarrassment, and neediness. Typically, children will miss the parent that is no longer in the home full-time, not fully understanding what is happening. If the divorce is messy, the children may even withdraw and begin to lose interest in friends, sports, school, and hobbies.
During and after the divorce, it is imperative that both parents be available for the children both physically and emotionally. You will need to help work with the children, showing them how to deal with the emotions. Many times, children will put blame on themselves, believing that they were bad or that they did something to cause mom and dad to split. Therefore, it is so important that you let the children know the breakup of the marriage had nothing to do with them and more importantly, that mom and dad are still friends.
Even if the two of you fight like cats and dogs away from the children, do all you can to keep things civil while in front of them so they can see for themselves that you are in fact still friends. Together, answer your children's questions, even some of the harder ones. You want to be straightforward and honest, keeping any bitterness toward the other spouse in check. For instance, your child may feel that because you stopped loving the other parent that you no longer love him or her. You will need to reassure the child that your love for him or her will never stop.
Children will often question their new living arrangements or visitation rights. You need to be honest with the children, letting them know the schedule that has been worked out. Most importantly, reassure the children that they will have opportunity to spend time with both parents. You will also likely be asked questions about the reason behind the divorce. While you may not want to share stories about infidelity, drugs, abuse, or other damaging subjects, you also want to be honest.
Chances are your children have suspected something was wrong or overheard arguments. Therefore, when they ask you why you are getting a divorce, you can tell them something to the effect of, "Mom and dad are better friends not being married. We still love each other but we believe we can be better parents by living in different homes so there is no more fighting." The key here is to keep your kids out of the middle of the issue and not putting the other spouse down.
You will also find that children have great concern about seeing the non-custodial parent. Therefore, talk openly and honestly about the time they will spend with the other parent. If they will only see mom or dad every other weekend, it is important the children know they can call the parent as often as they like. This way, they understand they are not being removed from that parent's life altogether, which for a child is a very frightening thing. Remember, any visitation will require some adjustment so be prepared to help your child through some tough times.
Children also worry about food, clothing, and having enough money with must one parent. Even small children hone in on the daily needs of the family so you need to make sure they understand their every need will be taken care of. Although you might need to cut back on a few things, you can usually do so without it being obvious to the children. In other words, kids would be just as happy eating hamburger than they would steak or buying clothes at a discount clothing store than a nice department store.
You also need to understand that once the divorce is finalized and mom or dad has moved out, the children will likely take some of their frustration and anger out on you, as the custodial parent. It is perfectly normal for the children to feel as if you were the reason mom or dad left so be prepared to have arrows thrown your way. In most cases, love and reassurance will be enough to help the children through this rough stage but if you find your children not coping well, both mom and dad need to work with the children to help them adjust.
If the children do not make positive adjustments within four months, you might seek some assistance from a family counselor, someone who can provide you with tools and resources for coping. Just remember that on average, it takes children between one and two years to fully, cope with a divorce. Therefore, you cannot expect overnight miracles. Just keep reminding yourself that your children are grieving and healing takes time but with support and ongoing love from both parents, the children will recover.
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