During your divorce, your kids will inevitably have to deal with change. Usually, divorce requires kids to adjust to being part of a child custody agreement. In some cases, such as when one parent moves too far away for regular visits to take place, kids have to cope with what seems like a permanent loss. In any case, it’s often a good idea to talk to your Toronto divorce lawyer to find out if he or she can refer you to a local counselor or therapist who’s qualified to help your kids deal with the anxiety they may be feeling.

Why Kids Feel Abandonment Anxiety

Children feel loss as acutely as adults do, but they usually lack the emotional maturity to recognize it for what it is. When they suddenly have to cope with a missing parent, even if you’ve explained the situation in great detail, they may feel like they’ve been—or are about to be—abandoned.

Kids’ Symptoms of Abandonment Anxiety

Kids who suffer from abandonment anxiety can act out in a variety of ways, including frequent temper tantrums and irrational irritability. Generally, they behave like this because they can’t understand or articulate their feelings. As a parent, you might notice your child exhibiting symptoms like:

  • being constantly on edge
  • suffering from restlessness and fatigue
  • experiencing muscle tension
  • difficulty sleeping
  • having gastrointestinal upset or diarrhea

Older kids might verbally express feelings of abandonment. They may ask the same questions repeatedly, hoping for a different answer, including things like “Why did Mom have to move so far away?” and “Are you going to leave, too?”

What to Do about Abandonment Anxiety in Children

If your child exhibits symptoms of abandonment anxiety or discusses his or her fears with you, ask your Toronto divorce lawyer if he or she knows a local professional who can help.

In the meantime, help your children realize that both you and the absent parent love them very much. You can reassure your kids by letting them know that distance doesn’t change the way people feel. If possible, create a schedule that includes frequent phone calls and Skype or FaceTime contact with the absent parent. This can help your kids realize that even though their other parent isn’t physically close, he or she is always thinking of them and will do everything in his or her power to maintain contact.

Let your kids discuss their feelings openly. Don’t try to hush their fears; instead, validate their feelings and show them you empathize.

Talk to your Toronto divorce lawyer about creating a custody agreement that includes ample visitation time with the noncustodial parent. Your kids will benefit from a regular schedule that you both stick to, and once they settle into a routine, their abandonment anxiety will most likely improve on its own.