“Ma and Papa don’t come to the park with me together anymore”, are the words said by Tanvi, a once lively and bubbly little 4-year-old. The separation of her parents and the consequent changes in Tanvi’s life have left Tanvi utterly unrecognizable from the girl she used to be.
Divorce is a painful and life-altering experience even for adults who are equipped with much better emotional and intellectual faculties to deal with it. Imagine how the disruption of routine, stability, and family impacts children? So while you may be dealing with the pain, anxiety, and uncertainty of a divorce, it is of utmost importance to manage your child’s emotional & psychological well-being at a time that is possibly the most turbulent for them.
The teething signs of distress in preschoolers may include fear, anger, emotional instability which may be expressed through whininess, anxiety, clinginess or general mood of irritability. Kids who would generally sleep through the night now may have disturbed sleep, wake up crying or begin bed-wetting.
Kids in the age group of 3-4 years may develop inaccurate ideas of divorce – “Dad left me”, instead of “Dad left mom”. There may be a possibility that they might be subjected to taunts by their friends, classmates, peers due to which they could go into a shell and lose self-confidence. It’s essential that the child is cushioned with a great deal of love and support at this time.
Kids in this age group are more aware of what’s going on around them but are still unable to process the complex situations that revolve around divorce. Questions and ‘blame games’ are more frequent here due to their ability to think and reason out. Children in this category tend to develop relationships outside the family: care should be taken that these are nurturing and healthy.
Emotions such as distress, fear, anxiety, sadness, and signs of missing the absent parent are possible signs from school going children. Reuniting their parents could be a common fantasy and acting upon this could lead to extreme and erratic behavior.
Speculatively, this may be the most difficult phase for kids whose parents are undergoing a separation. Teens ask questions, take part in discussions and are more vocal about parental authority. Age on their side gives them a greater capacity to understand some of the ramifications of divorce. For teenagers, relationships outside the family are perceptively more concrete and thus become increasingly important.
While it may be difficult to judge how much of teen moodiness is related to divorce; signs of irritability & anger are common towards one or both of the parents, who are moving out. Sometimes internal strife and divorce-related concerns, may not be the cause for moodiness. However, it shouldn’t go unattended to by parents.
Divorce is the decision of adults to move from unhappy times to a new start with new possibilities of hope, love, happiness. It most certainly isn’t a tragedy, don’t make it one for your kids.