The way children understand the divorce of their parents largely depends on their age. It is important that parents know what kind of thoughts and feelings children of specific age have in order to change and adapt their behavior and thus help children adjust to divorce.
Babies and infants
Do not think that babies co not understand what is going on. They tend to notice changes in the amount of energy in parents but also their emotional status. Infants tend to notice when one parent does not live in the house.
Their behavior can be somewhat more nervous and characterized with frequent crying and restlessness. You can even notice changes in sleep and other routines. In the case that the new adult moves into the house, infants can become nervous and timid.
How to help your baby:
The things you can do for your baby and (or) toddler in order to help them are too try to keep their normal routines and schedules. Have in mind that the babies are very sensitive; therefore keep their favorite toys and blankets where they can reach them. In the case a new person comes to their life, give them time, and gradually get to know the older baby with new adults
Toddlers tend to be more aware and notice that one parent no longer lives in the house. They can show empathy toward others, and notice if the one of the parents is sad.
When it comes to their feelings, the toddlers can have difficulties when it comes to separating from their parents. In the case they notice changes; they can even show anger toward one parent. The shock of a divorce can make the child lose some of the skills they have already acquired, like going to the toilet, and they can adopt some new habits they have never had before, like sucking the thumb. As well as the babies, they can also change their sleep habits, and nightmares can become somewhat more frequent.
How to help your toddler
If you want to help your toddler, provide them more time when you are preparing to separate from them. If they are attending nursery, be at the nursery some 10-15 minutes earlier and give them time to prepare that they are staying and you are going. Be patient and careful with them. Provide them physical and verbal confirmation of your love and care. Demonstrate that you do care about them and that you do understand the eventual discomfort they might feel. Do talk with the other authorities in the toddler’s life (like teachers) about the changes in the toddler’s life.
Preschoolers and early elementary school children
Preschoolers and elementary school children are big enough to notice that one parent no longer lives in the same home. The children that are attending elementary school begin to understand that divorce means their parents will no longer be married and live together and that their parents no longer love each other.
Such children might probably blame themselves for the divorce, and they can worry about the changes in their everyday life. Nightmares are also frequent in this phase of their lives. The preschoolers and early elementary school children can show signs of grief and mourning due to the absence of one parent. Aggressiveness and anger towards the parent who they “accuse” for the divorce is also rather frequent. The children of this age are full with illusions and they tend to believe that their parents will eventually reconcile.
How to help your preschoolers and early elementary school child:
Remind your child that they are not the ones to blame for the divorce. Reassure your child that their needs will be met and explain to them who will care about them and their needs. Frequently talk to your child about their feelings and thoughts, and be sensitive to their fears. Read books about divorce with children in order to help them understand the phase you all are going through. Plan the schedule for visits to the other parent, and support the child’s relationship with the other parent, but do have in mind to remind them that the divorce is final and that parents will not be together.
They are big enough to understand what divorce means but they might have difficulties in accepting the reality of the changes that divorce brings to their family. Although they think in rather complex degree than smaller children, may continue to blame them for the divorce.
They might feel abandoned by parents who no longer lives with them. The divorce might affect them in a manner that they might withdraw from long-time friends and favorite activities. Teenagers often feel angry or insecure in their thoughts and feelings regarding love, marriage and family. The same case as in other children groups, they can develop some of the habits that they did not have earlier, such as swearing, becoming aggressive or rebellious. Teenagers when faced with a divorce might feel that they are forced to grow up somewhat faster, and might develop certain worries about “adult things”, such as family financial security, and feel obligated to take over the adult responsibility in the family.
How to help your teenager:
Maintain an open communication with your child and constantly reassure them your love and constant presence in their lives.· Whenever possible, both parents should remain involved in the child’s life, meet your child’s friends, get involved with their activities, and stay they work informed about the child’s progress in school and other activities. Maintain some family habits and routines you have made during the years together, like Sunday lunches, homework time grocery shopping, watching your favorite TV program together family activities. If you need to increase the child’s responsibilities at home, divide the roles suitable child’s age and show appreciation for the child’s participation. Avoid placing the teenager the role of trustees, plan special time for yourself when you go out with adult friends or other family members.Inform the children who will be present at special occasions such as sporting events or graduation ceremonies, especially if you plan to bring a new romantic partner.