If your children are among the millions of children here in Kentucky and throughout the nation at large whose lives have been disrupted by divorce this year, you can likely relate to most good parents who are concerned about their children's emotional well-being. How your children react to your divorce may be similar or quite different from other kids their ages. In fact, depending on your children's ages, you may find that each of them experiences your divorce in unique ways, even though they are members of the same family.
Studies show children are typically resilient and adaptable by nature. That does not guarantee, however, that your kids will sail through your divorce in a stress-free manner. Chances are, they will have ups and downs, good days and bad days, much like you. The more you understand about the common levels of psychological and emotional growth in children, the better prepared you can be to help your kids adapt to their new lifestyle. External factors, such as legal problems with your co-parent, may definitely affect your kids' abilities to cope.
Have you noticed one or more of these signs?
It is not uncommon for children of divorce to go through stages of regression. Therefore, try to avoid panic if you notice an older child suddenly acting more like a younger sibling than his or her usual, mature self does. The following list provides more information about common reactions children of various ages have when their parents are going through divorce:
- You may have a toddler who was already potty-trained who suddenly starts having accidents again. In fact, you may witness similar decline in an older child, as well.
- Many children, especially those who are younger, experience severe separation anxiety when their parents get divorced. This type of stress often stems from fear of abandonment when a parent has left the home and the child worries that the other parent will go away, too.
- If your children go to school outside the home or even if they home school, you may notice a significant decline in the quality of their schoolwork.
- Adolescence is a time in most children's lives that often includes some level of rebellion. However, when parents get divorced, this type of behavior may be exacerbated, especially in older teenagers.
Extended family relationships may also suffer in divorce. For instance, if your spouse fails to show up for visits or tries to impede your relationship with your kids, the children themselves may not only be aware of such trouble, but may internalize it and feel quite stressed. Grandparents, too, especially in contentious custody situations, may experience problems in their relationships with their grandkids.
Things you can't control and those you can
You cannot change another person's emotions. Each of your children will react to your divorce in his or her unique way. The best you can do is tell them often that you love them, that your divorce is not their fault and that you are there to support them as you all move on in life together.
What you can control to some degree, are any legal issues that arise, for instance, if your spouse fails to adhere to a court order. The sooner you bring such matters to the court's attention, the better because unresolved co-parent problems definitely affect your children's abilities to cope with your divorce.