“ Children need and deserve the love, care, and support of both their parents”
Divorce is said to be one of the most traumatic experiences in the life of a person. Not only is it traumatic for the spouses but also for the children. In our current society it is not difficult see what the effects of divorce have on spouses, families and children. The ripple effect of a divorce rolls into the lives of most of the extended family members and close friends. As a family law attorney I see the effects of divorce every day. What parents should realise is that although the spousal relationship may end at divorce, the parental relationship will endure for a lifetime. The more acrimonious the break-up the more difficult will it be for the parents to parent their children in future. It is therefore of utmost importance that spousal conflict should bow for the sake of the best interests of the children, sooner rather than later. As a matter of fact, all that children want is to be happy. Unfortunately in many divorces it is the parents that act like children.
Here are some pointers for parents:
The various ages and how children react to divorce:
Zero to One Year
Babies at this age begin to form attachments, so it is important to minimize changes and disruptions in their lives and show them love and affection. It’s important that they spend time with both parents so they can form attachments with both. Signs of distress can be excessive crying, problems with feeding or sleeping, and withdrawal.
One to Three Years
At this age children become more mobile and gaining communication skills. They are also able to recognize close adults, so they are sensitive to separation. These kids need consistency in routine and patience from their parents to safely explore their environment. Signs of distress are nightmares, mood changes, and changes in toileting.
Three to Five Years
Kids at this age believe they are the center of the universe, and so they feel responsible for the family split. Parents need to be positive during exchanges, keep a consistent schedule, and tell the kids that the divorce or split is not their fault. Signs of distress include toileting and sleep problems.
Five to Ten Years
Kids at this age are entering school and forming relationships outside the family. They may try to reunite parents and may feel and act out intense anger. Parents should develop a schedule that allows for consistency with school and extracurricular activities, and support their kids’ interests and friendships. Signs of distress at this age include expressions of anger, drop in school performance, sleep problems, and physical complaints.
Ten to Twelve Years
Pre-teens tend to see things in black and white terms, and so may align themselves with one parent. Parents should encourage these kids to love both parents and support their kids’ school and other activities. Signs of distress in pre-teens may include loss of interest in friends, becoming a perfectionist, depression, and isolation.
Early Adolescence (Thirteen to Fifteen Years)
Teens will often prefer to spend more time with friends than family, so allow room in the parenting plan for this. These teens need firm but fair guidelines and positive role models. They may also want to be included in creating the parenting plan. Signs of distress in this age group may include excessive anger or isolation, difficulty with school or peers, alcohol and drug use, and sexual acting out.
Late Adolescence (Sixteen to Eighteen Years)
Teens in this age group are learning to be independent to prepare for the separation from their parents, but they still need support and rules. These teens may also want to be included in creating the parenting plan. Watch for signs of distress, including reduction in school performance, difficulty with peers, alcohol and drug use, and sexual acting out. If parents aren’t able to talk, your teen can say, “I’m spending tonight at mom’s (dad’s) house,” and you won’t know if they’re really there.