Childrens Reactions to Divorce
There are frightening things that happen to individuals when their relationship ends up in divorce. When there are no children in the marriage, the adults can separate their lives relatively easy, although not without pain. For children, however, the dissolvement of the marriage, signals the termination of the family, as they know it and can be highly traumatizing. Children who go through a separation and divorce, often experience abandonment. This is also their primary fear.
Younger children do not have the intellectual resources and older children, the emotional resources, to understand divorce, as any- thing other than, “I am being left by my parent.” The fear of never seeing one of their parents again is a difficult situation to face. The ultimate wish is to see their parents reunited and back together again. One reason why divorce is so difficult for kids, is the fact that they have limited experiences to understand why their parents separated and what happens when one parent and maybe two parents, leave the home. If one parent leaves the home, what’s stopping the other parent from leaving, too. If that were to happen, then there would be nobody left to take care of them.
Many times, children are often afraid to ask what will happen to them. Their worst fear being permanent abandonment. If parents do not explain what divorce means, the child may remain in a high state of anxiety over a long period of time. Sometimes this anxiety gets expressed as acting out with aggressive and non-compliant behaviors. Sometimes it gets expressed as withdrawn behavior, eating or sleeping problems and/or school related problems.
The children, therefore need an explanation, at a level they can understand, what divorce means to them. Reassurance and their understanding that it is not their fault can be very helpful and go a long way. Simple explanations, that are geared to their developmental level, can be sufficient. Children of divorce are normal children, that are going through a traumatic experience and they respond according to their age and maturity. Parents are urged to seek a parenting education course and consider a professional counselor, if they feel, that the situation is getting more and more difficult and/or worse over time.