Any Barrie divorce lawyer can tell you that kids are as much a part of divorce as the adults involved. Unfortunately, children of all ages generally lack the emotional maturity to handle and relieve stress that adults have learned. They need to draw on the strengths of both parents in order to cope with their new lives – but during divorce, many parents become caught up in their own problems and overlook what their kids are going through.
Divorce and Young Children
Babies, toddlers and young kids react differently to divorce than adolescents. According to Dr. Carl Pickhardt, a U.S.-based psychologist who works with divorcing families, children through age nine generally become more dependent on their parents during divorce because suddenly, their parents have broken the routine they trust.
Divorce and Adolescents
Adolescents are testing the waters of their independence, so a divorce can cause them to pull away from their parents. Pickhardt suggests that many adolescents respond to the stress of divorce by becoming more aggressive, rebellious and angry.
How Kids Respond to the Stress of Divorce
As your Barrie divorce lawyer can tell you from experience with past clients, no two children can be expected to have the same reaction to emotional upheaval. However, many behave in predictable ways. Young children may:
- become more “clingy”
- throw tantrums or have crying fits that require more parental attention than usual
- lose “potty skills” they have already learned, including bed-wetting and refusing to use the toilet
- lose other self-care skills
Generally, when a young child regresses, it’s a subconscious attempt to get parents to pay more attention. Their sense of security is often shaken, and since parents are their main source of love, affection and friendship, they’ll do what they can to try to get back on an even keel.
Adolescents often respond in more independent ways. They may:
- become distant and withdrawn
- want to spend more time out of the house with friends
- put his or her own interests before those of the family
These are normal emotional reactions for adolescents. Even if they don’t verbalize their feelings, adolescents often believe that their parents have put themselves first, so they’re entitled to do the same.
Focusing on the Kids
While dealing with temper tantrums, slamming doors and rebellious teens can be overwhelming, especially when you’re in the middle of a divorce, your main responsibility as a parent is to help your children’s world become stable again.
Pickhardt recommends committing to the three Rs: Routines, Rituals and Reassurance. Establishing new routines allow your kids to replace their old ones so they know what to expect. He suggests that kids should be allowed to create their own rituals in order to feel more in control of their lives, and that parents should constantly reassure their kids that their love is constant and unwavering.
What Your Barrie Divorce Lawyer May Advise
Your Barrie divorce lawyer may suggest that you work with a local family therapist who can help both you and your children cope with your new reality.