Divorce is a major life altering event that affects the whole family.
We all know this, but when there are children involved we not only have to address the many ways it affects our lives, we have to address the impact divorce has on our children. Every child is different and so they will all react and respond very differently.
Young children will have a different kind of response than teenagers. School aged children will have yet another kind of response or reaction.
If your child is suffering from your recent divorce but not verbalizing anything, what are the signs you should watch for?
Some signs may be very subtle but others obvious. Here are some Top Tips from MedSchoolForParents readers on what to watch for:
1. REGRESSION - Young children might suddenly regress in their development. A toilet trained child might suddenly start having accidents or may start asking to drink from a bottle again.
You might see more “baby like” behavior. Know that the regression is only temporary and is simply a signal to you that they need more TLC. It’s not a time to punish or remind her that she is no longer a baby.
2. NON-COMPLIANCE - You might find your child has suddenly started to become non-compliant. This can often be a sign that he or she is rebelling against a situation they have no control around. Although we want to be compassionate, it isn’t necessary to become lenient and allow non-acceptable behavior. You can though use it as a signal to sit down and talk to your child about what he or she might be feeling.
It’s important for them to know that whatever it is they’re feeling, is ok. Feelings are neither right nor wrong. Provide opportunities for lots of one on one conversation. Often the best time for important conversations is bedtime.
You might want to adjust the routine to start a little earlier so there is time to talk. Listen without judgment or criticism. Reflect back what your child is telling you. If they want to talk about things that are not related, that’s fine too. They may just be needing more alone time with you.
3. UNDERPERFORMING AT SCHOOL - Shortly after a divorce, everyone in the family feels the change. Children too will be distracted by the recent events of their lives and may not be able to focus in school.
Consequently school performance might go down. Again, use this as an opportunity to talk. Make sure their teachers know what is going on in the family so they too will have some understanding.
Rather than punish or lecture for declined school performance, show compassion. This will most likely be a temporary set-back and chances of getting back on track are better if they know they’re heard and understood.
4. ANXIETY / DEPRESSION - Another sign that your child is suffering from your recent divorce is anxiety and/or depression. You might notice fears that are out of character; such as when you leave the house or when they enter new situations. They might become anxious around sounds in the night or movement.
You might witness more isolation or sadness. If this is the case, you may want to spend more time in the evening talking or just cuddling. This is a time for lots of reassurance that they are still loved by both parents and none of this was their fault. Teach your child to deep breathe. It has a very good calming effect.
Do not hesitate to seek out the help of a qualified mental health professional if you are unable to understand or deal with some of the new, more challenging behaviors.