Stranger In A Strange Land. Your divorce is finalized and you’re trying to move on. But how are the kids doing? Children are easily affected by changes in their environment. It’s easy to mislabel these as some other adolescent occurrence. Often time’s children feel as if their parents’ splitting up was somehow their fault. This is an attempt to rationalize the situation and a good indicator that they are trying to cope, with the idea of the family splitting up, in a less than positive way. Being their safety net is extremely important in this new environment they have to make sense of. Keep in mind, they are still developing. The way they make decisions and see the world around them is different than a fully grown adult.
Watch Their Behavior. A child is still figuring out what to do with their new found emotions and feelings. It’s common for children to be moody at odd times and, in general, display behavior that’s outside of the norm. What to watch for:
- Emotional Roller coaster: One moment they might be fine, the other they could be on top of the world or down in the dumps. Unusual highs and low in mood could be a display of what professionals call a “coping mechanism”.
- Anti-Social: Are they participating in activities with friends? Having alone time is a great but if you notice they don’t want to play a game or go to an event they would normally be bouncing off the walls for, this is another one of our red flags folks.
- Bullying: If there are reports of your child bullying others, this could mean they are trying to maintain control of their environment. Stomp it out before it becomes a forest fire.
The Company You Keep. Social interaction for children growing up is important for their development as individuals and also teaches them how to interact on a group level emotionally and physically. However, the groups they choose to associate with can be tell tale signs of a negative reaction to your separation from your partner. If the group of people they hang out with changes drastically, there needs to be a response on your end as a parent. Encourage them to hang out with some of their old friends.
Trouble In School. Falling grades can be another flare on the horizon. Lack of focus and interest in school can easily turn from a small problem to a big deal down the line. If your child is getting bad grades, it’s going to take a little effort to get them back on track. The interaction between them and you during homework will provide the structure at home that they need, so everyone benefits.
All this is going to take a watchful eye and a willingness to communicate, this could mean with the other parent as well. If the two of you don’t get along, put that aside so you can figure out what’s going on in your child’s life. Compare notes, it’s just professional courtesy.