Unless it’s apparent to kids that their parents are better off apart, most do not want their parents to separate. When caught up in a messy divorce, kids are inclined to be neglected as each parent struggles with the grief that comes with a failed marriage.
The separation leads to one parent having to find a new place to live. Then follows the court hearings for alimony and the dreaded custody for the children.
Most parents make the mistake of getting so caught up in their own grief and the formalities of the divorce that they end up neglecting their children. Over time we’ve learned that children generally handle divorce better when they are younger, as they have little understanding of what exactly is happening and can be distracted easily.
However, some divorces are much more traumatic than they need to be; it can bring with it loneliness, severe financial stress, and in some cases even abuse. When the divorce elicits feelings of hopelessness in children, this is when you need to step it up as parents and ensure that your children don’t feel neglected and insecure during the transition.
Here’s a few signs that show that your child is struggling.
1. Frequent Outbursts
Estranged kids might manifest their frustrations through outbursts of anger and erratic behavior. Due to the helplessness and confusion they experience during divorce, its normal for kids to act out. Most of it might be harmless, but there are children who can exhibit destructive behavior.
If you find your child pounding the floor as they walk, throwing things around or slamming doors, these are all indicators of a buildup of aggression. In such cases, parents should speak to their kids’ teachers and friends to find out if they too notice a change in behavior.
Try and determine whether your kids are just expressing resentment towards you or are generally struggling with the emotional turmoil of the divorce. Either way, you’re going to have to communicate with your kids and address their concerns and feelings, even if they show resistance. Comfort them and let them know that you’re in it together. Let them understand that they can come to you whenever they feel overwhelmed with anguish.
Self-harm was initially thought of as an epidemic among teens and tweens, but experts have found that self-harm is not limited to a specific age. Peter Wilson, clinical advisor to the young children’s charity called Place2be, was baffled by a five-year-old boy who continued to bite himself really hard out of frustration. He elaborated further saying that it’s not common for children that young to engage in self-harm but the numbers are on a constant increase.
This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise considering the amount of violence and gore kids are exposed to. Earlier, young children may have been protected from the concept of self-harm, but nowadays because they have access to so much content, young kids too are familiar with it.
3. Trouble Sleeping
Older children can experience some insomnia when their parents are undergoing a divorce. Anxiety resulting from the uncertainties of the divorce can make it difficult for them to sleep at night.
When younger children visit the non-custodial parent, they may take some time getting used to changed settings and routines. It’s important that your children get enough sleep, so make sure that it doesn’t affect other parts of their lives, specifically school.
If your child isn’t telling you about their inability to sleep, you’ll surely notice signs of sleep deprivation. The exhaustion will show on their face and they will be more irritable than usual.
To help them sleep, try giving them warm milk 20 minutes before going to bed. Have them put away all their devices (smartphones, laptops, etc.) at least 45 minutes before their bedtime.
If they are still having trouble sleeping, try sleeping with them for a couple of nights. It will provide them with comfort and help them feel secure.
4. Withdrawn from Loved Ones
When you find that your child is distancing him/herself from you and others whose company they usually enjoy, it is usually because they are holding in anger or emotions. Speak to your child and help them find an outlet to help them let it all out.
They are likely to blame you for breaking up the family, so you’re going to have to work to earn their trust again. Make them realize that the divorce was the best option for everyone and that having their parents live separately doesn’t mean that they don’t have their support.
Divorce is traumatic for the couple and their children. Way too often the couple forgets how their children’s lives are being affected by their decision to separate. As parents, it’s your job to put in effort to make your kids as comfortable as possible during the divorce. Even if it is tough for you and your partner to get along, you need to be civil in front of your kids.
Remember that your relationship with your partner ended but your child’s relationship with their parent hasn’t.
Sherley Alaba is an eagle-eyed wordsmith; a writer and translator, always interested in ways which can help individuals (especially youth and women) reach their full creative potential. Her focus has been on writing, producing and editing stories on business, finance, interesting personalities, entrepreneurs, culture, the environment, gastronomy, lifestyle, and social issues.