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The Affect of Divorce on a Child

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The Affect Of Divorce On A Child

Divorce has been a world-wide topic for many years, many couples turn to divorce without any thoughts of how the child would be affected. The age of the child is a significant determinant of what particular effects he or she will experience. Divorce is an intensely stressful experience for all children, regardless of age or developmental level; many children are inadequately prepared for the impending divorce by their parents. Several factors such as parental custody and post divorce parental relations affect the severity of the outcomes of the child.

A major focus of divorce in the response of a child is the grouping of common reactions of children by age groups. Children between the ages of 3 to 6 are more likely to exhibit a regression of the most recent developmental milestone achieved. Additional problems include sleep disturbances and an exacerbated fear of separation from the custodial parent which usually leads to a great deal of yearning for the non-custodial parent. Children in this age group are the most confused and disoriented by the separation. Play behavior which is very important is disrupted, and increased aggression leads to poor peer relations. They often fear abandonment of the other parent which coupled with poor understanding of separation leads to high anxiety. This is often manifested as tearful and clingy behavior toward the custodial parent at any signs of separation, such as day care. Nightmares are a very frequent behavior, and it is uncommon to see the child regress to earlier infant type behavior patterns. Children this young in a divorce often show feelings of guilt, being unloved, and fears of being alone. The child often blames themselves for the separation and fail to master conflicts at the proper time. Older children in this group show reduced self-esteem, unpredictable and undependable peer relationships as well as high levels of insecurity.

Children between the ages of 6 and 12 will openly grieve for the departed parent. Children have replacement fantasies, or fantasies that their parents will reunite in the not-so-distant future. Anger and feelings of powerlessness are predominate emotional responses in this age group. Children are more likely than younger ones to experience severe cognitive impairments as a result of the separation. Anxiety, restlessness, inability to concentrate, and intrusive thoughts about the separation all contribute to the child's ability to participate freely in the learning process, and can lead to a drastic drop in school performance. Feelings of sadness, guilt decreased self worth, loneliness and self blame are also very common, which leads to irritability, ending in difficulties with classmates. There is a greater tendency to label parents as good or bad, and children are very susceptible to attempting to take care of a parent at the expense of their own needs. As the child gets older in mind development they are likely to openly express grief, compulsively overeat, and fluctuate between obedient and rebellious behavior patterns. Older children in this group often show examples of stealing, lying, and having trouble with authority figures. Moral outrage at the parents decision is common and they feel torn and distressed by the issues of loyalty between the parents.

Children are prone to responding to their parents divorce with acute depression, suicidal ideation, and sometimes violent acting out episodes in the age group of 13 to 18. These adolescents tend to focus on the moral issues surrounding divorce and will most often judge their parents' decisions and actions. There are feelings of distress about their own futures in marriage and love, leading to a de-idealization of their own parents. Drugs, alcohol and aggressive behavior are areas that tend to develop in extremes. Adolescents may withdraw from all relationships and become dependent on the parent, or become sexually promiscuous at an early age. Many become anxious and fearful, academic performance is low, self concept is dysfunctional and truancy is high. In the age group adolescents have capability to perceive integrity in the post-divorce relationship of their parents and often show compassion for their parents without neglecting their own needs. As the adolescent or teenager develop mentally they often make valuable decisions about their own future and values that lead to positive developments and identity formation.

Divorce can be misinterpreted by children unless parents tell them what is happening, how they would be involved and what will happen to them. Children often believe they have caused the conflict between their mother and father regardless of how many time they are told differently. Many times a child would go to great lengths in order to gain back their normal family lifestyle. Parents will have to immediately start helping their child through the divorce to minimize the numerous problems that lie ahead in the future.

Talk openly with your child about impending divorce. Tell what is going to happen to the child after the divorce.

It's important to emphasize that your child is in no way to blame for the breakup and that the unhappiness is not related to her.

Assure the child that divorce does not mean the child will lose either parent, it just means that the parents will not be living together, but they love the child permanently and unconditionally.

Don't use the child as a weapon, spy or means to get even with your spouse. A child needs the love and affection of both the parents.

Don't make your children take sides in any dispute with your spouse. Children generally want to make both their parents happy. Don't make them choose.

Do not talk negative about your spouse in front of the child.

Maintain a meaningful and communicative relationship with your children.

Don't argue or fight with your spouse while the child is listening. Experts say the amount of conflict the child witnesses during and immediately after divorce is a crucial factor in his or her adjustment.

Be alert to signs of distress in their child or children. Young



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