Some children are so young when their parents divorce that they don’t ever remember them being together. Other kids are old enough to always remember what life was like when their parents were married. They will recall what they were doing when they were informed that their parents were divorcing and how it affected them. Thus, it is vitally important for parents to understand that children of various ages will process and cope with divorce very differently.
This means you are going to need to prepare yourself for what each of your children will understand about the process. For some children it is nothing more than knowing that their mom or dad will no longer be living in the same house with them. For others it is a complete change of life from the way they have always known it. Additionally, children of the same age group will also look at the divorce process differently.
Understanding the feelings of your children and how they relate to a divorce is extremely important. Very young children, even those that aren’t old enough to talk yet, are affected by the emotions of people around them. They can often identify issues such as stress, tension, and they definitely know when their parents are upset.
As a result, their own behaviors may change. They may cling to one or both of their parents. They may not want to go with strangers. Temper tantrums as well as crying are common. A young child may also exhibit changes in their eating and sleeping patterns.
Children from about three years of age to around five will be able to verbalize some questions about the divorce. They will often notice that their other parent isn’t around like they used to be. They may pose questions such as why the other parent doesn’t go to the park with them or whey they live someplace else.
Children from the age of six to about 11 will likely know someone in their peer group who has divorced parents. In fact, that person may very well be one of their closest friends. They will likely know what the term means. However, that doesn’t mean they are going to readily accept it. Be ready for some changes in behavior as well as some very tough questions they might probably ask.
Displays of anger are very common with this age group as the children are simply overwhelmed by their emotions. They may lack the skills to effectively be able to handle what has been taking place. Do your best to get them to talk about it even if they aren’t sure what they are feeling or why.
Older children from 12 and up often understand more about divorce than any other age group. They may blame themselves or attempt to find more detailed answers as to what was taking place. Chances are that this older age group was well aware of some issues in your marriage before the announcement of the divorce entered the picture.
It is very common for children in this age group to be angry at one parent and to want to be a caregiver for the other. Do your best to get your child to see both parents as equals. If you can offer a united front as far as the divorce and caring for the children, it will then become easier for your kids to process. Children don’t need to be your confidante when it comes to the divorce. Turn to another adult for someone to listen or to a professional divorce coach.
Children of various ages will deal with divorce differently and parents need to be aware of these differences. How you approach things with your children during the divorce process is going to affect them for the rest of their lives. With that in mind, work hard to have a relationship with your ex on some level. Even if it is nothing more than a hello and goodbye when you exchange the children, the kids will notice and be better adjusted for it.
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