Your Child Isn’t Coping Well With A Divorce
It is fairly well known that divorce is even harder on children than it is on their parents.
Divorce is, certainly, a difficult thing under any circumstance. But a divorce for parents is particularly difficult. You don’t just have your own feelings to worry about; you also worry about the feelings of your child, or children.
While the parents are capable of grasping why their marriage has failed, their children aren’t always capable of doing so. In a lot of cases, (if not most,) children can’t fully comprehend why their parents’ separation was necessary for the long run. Therefore, the impact it leaves on them is, to put it simply, negative.
Remember that a child’s response to divorce depends on the child.
Sometimes, children will respond negatively right away to the divorce. Their mood will visibly change and they won’t act quite like their old selves. But other times, they won’t respond immediately. For a while, it may seem like nothing even happened until the negative emotions start to breakthrough.
Basically, there is no set time for when a child may start exhibiting signs of emotional distress in response to their parents’ divorce. If your child seems totally fine to begin with, do remember to keep an eye on them, because that behavior is most likely temporary, and will be followed by negative emotions.
One common response: Anxiety.
When a child learns of a divorce, one particularly common response is anxiety. Anxiety doesn’t only cause them to feel nervous and uncertain, it can also cause mood swings. Your child may be jumping for joy one second and crying their eyes out the next. Being totally calm and collected and then switching to an aggressive attitude in a heartbeat.
Anxiety can also cause a change in eating habits; perhaps they’re eating much more than usual, or barely anything at all. Their sleeping habits may also be affected, similarly to their eating habits; either sleeping too much or too little. All of these are telltale signs that anxiety is eating away at your child.
Keep an eye out for withdrawal.
Some children need time to themselves to cope. That, by itself, is not a bad thing. However, if your child is beginning to do poorly in school, starting to hang out less and less with their friends, etc., it would be good to look into this behavior, as withdrawing is one of the main signs of depression.
Make sure your child isn’t blaming others, or themselves, for the divorce.
Children will often try to assign blame to someone in the case of a divorce. Perhaps they blame a specific parent, or their parents’ work, or even themselves. Be sure to reassure your child about why the divorce happened; don’t try to make them pick a side, just assure them that what happened was what needed to happen and that nobody, in particular, was to blame. Even if you think your former spouse may be responsible, do not tell this to the child, particularly if this parent is still going to be in the child’s life. This only creates more conflict.
Communication is key
This is not an easy time for anyone involved. To make sure that your child is coping well, the best thing to do is communicate. Speak to them frequently; not necessarily about the divorce, but just about anything to get an idea of how they’re feeling.
If you identify any signs that your child is not coping as well as they could, you can help them to do better. Perhaps by letting them vent their feelings, maybe through counseling. Or maybe they just need a hug every once in a while. In any case, your child will need your help to get through this difficult time. And focusing on their needs will help you, as a parent, as well.