If a marriage breaks down and divorce becomes the inevitable conclusion to the relationship, it is important to remember that although possessions need to be accounted for, the most important people affected are the children.
Recognizing that this transition, from married to divorced life, will undoubtedly bring a series of changes, it is of the utmost priority to monitor how your child or children adapt.
Studies suggest that a child’s age and maturity level can be factors in predicting how they react to a divorce. Some of the key findings from these studies are discussed below:
Children in Preschool
- The studies suggest that children ages 3-5 have a tendency to regress to infantile activities, including a strong attachment to old toys, wanting a comforting blanket, and even bed-wetting.
- A child at this age may exhibit previously uncharacteristic behavior such as agitation, aggressiveness, depression and disobedience.
- Although the child may be unable to understand his/her feeling in the face of these changes, he/she may have a fear of abandonment. This is especially true in cases where one parent is markedly absent during this period.
- It is important to attempt to maintain consistent contact between the child and both parents.
Children in Elementary School
- These children are old enough to identify that the source of their emotional pain is their parents separation.
- They are subject to a wide-range of emotions including anger, depression and embarrassment.
- These emotions can trigger physical ailments such as headaches and stomach pains.
- Pre-adolescents are also the age-group who most strongly believe that their parents will reconcile.
- Socializing among their peers in after-school activities is a beneficial coping mechanism.
Adolescents & Teens
- Teenagers are the most likely to understand the cause of their parents divorce; however, they are still prone to demonstrate the range of emotion stated above.
- Teenagers can blame their own behaviors as a potential cause.
- Adolescents are often split regarding loyalty to parents and as a result may feel torn between mother and father.
- They may attempt to use the absence of a parent as a reason to become a parental figure to younger siblings.
- It is also possible that they translate the failure of marriage into their future relationships regarding commitment, trust, etc.
Children at all ages are affected by the separation of their parents. It is important to recognize any changes in activity and mentality within your child throughout this stressful process, and to address these issues promptly as they appear. Your marital relationship may be over. However, your relationship with your children lasts forever.