In response to my blog about single teen dads, I received this email request: “I wondered if I could address the effects of divorce on very young children. ”
What I can do is to try to distinguish some general ways in which children (up to 8 or 9 years old) often react to parents \’ divorce in contrast to how adolescents (starting around 9-13 years) often respond. Understand that I\’m talking about trends, not a certainty.
Divorce introduces a massive change in a child\’s life regardless of age. Witnessing the loss of love among parents, having parents break their marriage commitment, adjusting to going and back between two different families, and the daily absence of a parent while living with each other, all create a new defiant family Circumstance in which to live. In the personal history of the boy or girl, a parental divorce is a watershed event. The next life is significantly altered from what life was like before.
Slightly different responses to this painful discomfort of events occur if the child is still in childhood or has entered adolescence. Basically, the divorce tends to intensify the dependence of the child and tends to accelerate the independence of the teenager; It often causes a more regressive response in the child and a more aggressive response in the adolescent. Consider why this variation may be so.
The child\’s world is a dependent, intimately linked to parents who are favored companions, strongly dependent on parental care, with the family the main focus of social life. The adolescent world is a more independent, more independent and distant, more self-reliant parent, where friends have become preferred companions, and where the main focus of social life now extends out of the family in a world more Great experience of life.
For the child, divorce shakes confidence in the dependence of parents who now behave in an extremely unsafe way. They surgically divide the family unit into two different families between which the child must learn to move forward and backward, for a time creating ignorance, instability, and insecurity, never being able to be with a parent without having to separate the other.
Convincing a young child of the permanence of divorce can be difficult when his intense desire to fantasize that, in some way, Mom and dad will live together again one day. He trusts the thought eager to help soothe the pain of loss, holding in the hope of a much longer parental meeting than the teenager who is quicker to accept the purpose of this unwelcome family change. Therefore, parents who have put in a joint presence in special family celebrations and holiday events to recreate the family\’s proximity to the child only feed the child\’s fantasy and delay its adjustment.
The short-term reaction of the dependent child to the divorce may be anxiety. Is so much different, new, unpredictable and unknown that life is filled with scary questions? “What will happen to the next? ” Who will take care of me? ” If my parents lose each other, can they lose their love for me? ” with a parent moving out, and if I lose the other one too? “Answering these questions of concern with worse fears, the child\’s response may be regressive.
By investing in an old-fashioned form of operation, parental care can be close. There may be separation anxiety, crying in bedtimes, breaking toilet training, watering beds, grabbing, complaining, tantrums, and temporary loss of established self-care skills, which can force parents \’ attention.
The child wants to feel more connected in a family situation where there was an important disconnect. Regression to the previous dependence may be partially an effort to provoke parental concern, acerciéndolos when the divorce brought each of them farther–the resident parent is now busiest and more concerned, the absent parent simply less Available because of being less around.
The most independent teenager tends to deal more aggressively with divorce, often reacting in a crazy and rebellious way, more determined to ignore family discipline and take care of himself, as parents did not fulfill their commitments to the family that was Originally made.
When the child may have tried to get the parents back, the teenager might try to get back to the parents. When the child felt pain, adolescence had a complaint. “If you can\’t trust to get together and take care of the family, then I have to start relying more on myself. “” If you can break your marriage and put yourself in the first place, then I can also put myself first. “” If you don\’t mind hurting me, then I don\’t mind hurting you. ”
Now, the teenager can act aggressively to take control of his life behaving even more distant and challenging, more determined to live his life in his own way, more devoted to his own interest than before. You feel more and more autonomous in a familiar situation that feels disconnected. Now you feel more motivated and have the right to act on your own.
For the parent who divorces a teenager, the greatest dedication of youth to self-interest should be harnessed by insisting on greater responsibility as more separation and independence of the family occur.
For the parent divorce a child, the priority is to establish a sense of family order and predictability. This means observing the three R\’s needed to restore the child\’s confidence in safety, familiarity, and dependence: routines, rituals, and consolation.
Therefore, parents establish visitation and home routines so that the child knows what to expect. They allow the child to create rituals to feel more in control of his life. And they provide a constant assurance that parents are so lovingly connected with the child as always, and are committed to making this new family arrangement work.