Divorce unleashes different kinds of emotions, and often, parents are caught up in their pain and suffering to notice the emotional turmoil their kids are enduring. Whereas adults have learned to cope through the years, children are still developing their coping mechanisms and may not even know how to express their feelings, let alone deal with their emotions.
Separation and divorce can be difficult events for children, including infants and toddlers. Work closely with your family law attorney in Tri-Cities, WA, to help you get the resources you need to respond honestly to your children’s concerns and help them adjust and go through this difficult time.
What Should We Tell Our Children About the Divorce?
Many parents freeze up when it comes to talking about the situation with their kids. You can make talking to your kids about divorce easier by carefully planning what you are going to say. However, you need to be age-aware as young kids need less detail while older ones need more information.
This is what your kids want from both parents:
- They need reassurance that you still love them and will continue caring for They need to continue seeing your texts, frequent calls, and a lot of questions from you. Your involvement in their lives is proof that you still love them.
- They want you to be clear that they were not the cause of the divorce. Young children, especially, often worry that they are the cause of the divorce. You need to explain to them that this is an adult problem, and there is nothing they would have done to change the situation.
- They need encouragement to speak about their feelings and concerns openly. Kids can have a problem expressing their feelings, so you need to be patient with them without interrupting.
- Let them know only what they should know. You shouldn’t involve them in adult decisions or make them a communication tool between the two of you. That way, they don’t have to take sides because they need both of you in their lives.
Is My Child Prone to Depression Following Our Divorce?
Children and teenagers can sometimes go through depression during or after divorce. It may come side by side with other forms of mental illnesses such as anxiety and drug abuse. Notably, depression in children does not have a high correlation with family history.
Signs to Watch For
Children of all ages can develop divorce-related emotional problems that can persist for years. Anxiety and depression are common but here are more signs to watch out for:
Babies can have eating, digestive, and sleeping disorders due to irregular routines after divorce. Keeping a consistent schedule is highly recommended.
- Developmental regression such as a decline in progress in potty training
- Clinginess and insecurities in kids who had started becoming more independent
- Irritability, tantrums, and aggression
Among School-Age Children
- Turning their sadness into anger
- Signals of depression
- They start suffering low self-esteem
- Increased obsession with their own safety or safety of those close to them
- Loss of appetite or overeating
- Problems focusing on conversations and school work
- Problems switching between activities
- Sleep problems; too much or too little sleep
Can I Help My Child Grieve the Divorce
Yes, you can help your child through the process of grief. For children, divorce can make them feel an intense loss – loss of a family unit or loss of the life they knew. You can help them find ways of expressing their emotions.
Give a listening ear. Always encourage them to share their feelings and allow time for them to speak out their frustrations and sadness.
Help them find words to express their feelings. Once you notice a child’s sadness or changing moods, encourage them to speak.
Encourage honesty. Your child may withhold sharing his or her feelings because of the fear of hurting you. Affirm to them that whatever they say is okay. If they blame you for the divorce and don’t share their feelings, they may face difficulties working through these feelings.
What Can We Do to Make This Phase Easier?
- Keep the same routines as much as possible. Your child will be confident if he or she knows what to expect.
- Avoid speaking negatively about the other parent to your kids, friends, or family. If you’re facing difficulties coping, find a counselor or friend to share your feelings.
- If you have more than one child, give each child time to speak out their feelings.
- Allow your children to speak to the other parent as much as they need. You should also show interest in their time with the other parent. Furthermore, create a proper child visitation schedule that works for everyone, including the kids.
- Avoid using the kids as messengers between you and the other parent.
- Involve other adults in the child’s life like teachers and coaches, and let them know what’s happening to help you watch out for any signs.
When Should I Call the Doctor?
Your children will take time to adjust. Younger children might turn back to behaviors they had outgrown.
Older kids, on the other hand, might get angry and feel overwhelmed. You should, however, watch for these warning signs that may need the attention of a doctor.
- Sleeping problems
- Trouble at school
- Social isolation
What If There Is a More Serious Problem?
Sometimes children get stuck in their anger and depression several months following the divorce.
You may notice these red flags for more severe problems:
- Physical complaints such as headaches and nausea
- Reckless behavior
- Running away from home
- Substance abuse
- Frequent outbursts of crying or shouting
If you notice these, talk to your child’s doctor, teachers, and even friends for support to help your kids through this difficult time. You can also consult a child therapist to guide you on how your child can cope better with specific problems.
Compassionate Legal Professionals Ready to Help
Divorce is a complicated process – even for kids. Both parents need to be actively involved in helping your children adjust to the new circumstances.
The Tri-Cities child custody lawyers at Pacific Northwest Family Law understand the effects of divorce on children and aggressively pursue legal outcomes with the child’s best interests. Call us on 509-572-3700 for divorce-related issues or if you need access to resources to help your children cope with divorce.