By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.
Presently, in the United States, the divorce rate is increasing at an astounding rate. Close to 50% of children are growing up in a single parent environment. Children need their parents in order for them to develop physically, mentally, and emotionally. If the bond between the parent and the child is broken, harmful consequences may follow that can be traumatic for a child. Divorce is stressful for parents and children alike.
Divorce does not subject children to years of emotional problems or lifelong dysfunction. Exposure to constant parental conflict and unhealthy family situations, however, can. Although children's emotional reactions usually depend on their age at the time of the divorce, many children experience feelings of sadness, anger, and anxiety - and it's not uncommon for these feelings to be expressed in their behavior. Divorce affects children in their school environment, their peer environment, and their family structure. Many divorces are highly emotional and can draw children into conflict, which weighs greatly on how the family functions as a unit.
Divorce can be misinterpreted by children unless parents tell them what is happening, how they would be involved and what will happen to them. Children often believe they have caused the conflict between their mother and father. Many a times, children would go to great lengths in order to gain back their normal family lifestyles.
Following are some suggestions to help you help your child go through divorce in the family:
- Talk openly with your child about impending divorce. Tell what is going to happen to the child after the divorce.
- It's important to emphasize that your child is in no way to blame for the breakup and that the unhappiness is not related to her.
- Assure the child that divorce does not mean the child will lose either parent, it just means that the parents will not be living together, but they love the child permanently and unconditionally.
- Don't use the child as a weapon, spy or means to get even with your spouse. A child needs the love and affection of both the parents.
- Don't make your children take sides in any dispute with your spouse. Children generally want to make both their parents happy. Don't make them choose.
- Do not talk negative about your spouse in front of the child.
Maintain a meaningful and communicative relationship with your children.
- Don't argue or fight with your spouse while the child is listening. Experts say the amount of conflict the child witnesses during and immediately after divorce is a crucial factor in his or her adjustment.
- Be alert to signs of distress in their child or children. Young children may react to divorce by becoming more aggressive and uncooperative or withdrawing.
- If a child shows signs of distress, the family doctor or pediatrician can refer the parents to a child and adolescent psychiatrist for evaluation and treatment who can meet with the parents to help them learn how to make the strain of the divorce easier on the entire family.
With good support, children can and do successfully make the adjustment to divorce.
Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center, http://www.startingadaycarecenter.com.