The splitting up of a family can be one of the most difficult times in a child’s life. You will have to monitor your children very closely to see how they are truly coping with this change. They are not always able to express what they are felling in words so make sure that you are watching for all kinds of signs and body language to see where they are at. Some of the signs to be alert to are as follows:
- Anger is one of the most difficult signs to watch for. It may not come out in specific ways that you might expect such as lashing out, but in subtle ways of letting their grades slip or hanging out with friends that they know you don’t approve of, etc. If you see this happening, talk with them and try to get them to the truth of their behavior so that they can process this anger in a healthy way.
- Anger might also come out in the most obvious ways such as lashing out verbally or even physically. Monitor this situation very closely so that it does not escalate over time. Don’t ever ignore this and think they will eventually outgrow it. Anger not dealt with can become a deep seeded root of bitterness in your child’s life. Always deal with it firsthand and do not be afraid to seek help when needed.
- Emotional ‘shutdown’ is another sign to look for. Sometimes when kids go through a divorce they are so sad that they emotionally shut down. The pain of losing a parent may just be too difficult to deal with and if they don’t know how to process this pain they will go into self preservation mode and shut down. In worse case scenarios, this could turn into depression so monitor this carefully. If you see them losing interest in things that used to bring them joy, investigate and find out what is behind this.
- Confusion can set in very quickly for children going through a divorce. Their loyalties are now divided and they can get caught in the middle between mom and dad. Especially if it is a bitter divorce, it may be very confusing for them felling that they might have to ‘take sides’. Never put your children in that position, it will only confuse them and can have damaging affects in their lives for years.
- Hopelessness can set in when parents go through a divorce. You have to realize that children rely on the stability and security of having their parents there for them and when a divorce ensues, it can ‘rock their world’. Parents are the one thing that children relay on for their safety and stability and when this doesn’t work out they can lose hope quickly. After all, “if mom and dad can’t make it, how am I ever going to make it?” This can bring a sense of hopelessness in their lives and they can act out in many ways. One major ‘acting out’ in this scenario is rebellion. They may just give up caring or doing the ‘right things’ and start rebelling. Of course, the root of this is pain but they will not always recognize this. So if your child starts sneaking out or drinking, your reaction in anger will not help the situation. Try to get to the root of what’s causing this. Have they just lost hope?
Whatever the signs, you as parents will have to keep a vigil eye on their behavior. They old saying that “kids adapt easily” is not always true in the case of divorce. It will be your responsibility to make sure that they are affected as little as possible and be ready to deal with whatever issues they might be going through. Having a blind eye to these signs will only lead to problems down the road, so keep a watchful eye. Communication and open dialogue will be your tools of choice in these scenarios so sharpen those tools and get to work. Your kids will need you!
- After Divorce: Why It’s OK To Be Angry At Your Ex (huffingtonpost.com)