Even when you’ve decided on the best way to tell your child about divorce and worked out the right timing for this talk, you need to be prepared for how your child may react. If you don’t know what to expect, you’re more likely to buckle under your child’s emotions or even react badly yourself.
Purdue University categorizes reactions into age groups:
Infants. An infant may cry for the parent who’s no longer living in the home. Infants may have mood changes where they cry more frequently, are hard to please or are fussy.
Toddlers. Toddlers often have similar moodiness to infants, but your child may also become more aggressive towards you. Or in a babysitting situation, you may see your child becoming more aggressive or mean to other children. On the other hand, toddlers may also seem more anxious, quiet, shy or afraid than they used to be. Insomnia and temper tantrums aren’t unusual. They may start acting more like younger children and begin crawling again instead of walking or if they were potty trained, they may start wetting themselves again or wet the bed at night.
Preschool and elementary children. Older children often blame themselves for the divorce, worry about changes in life’s daily activities or start having nightmares. They may be angry with the parent who left or angry toward the parent they’re with. They may start making up imaginary stories.
Parents Magazine explains that reactions can vary greatly. One example was a parent telling her eight-year-old daughter about divorce and her daughter’s concern was whether she could still have her birthday party. Children are focused on themselves and on how decisions change their immediate lives. Children may want to know if they can still go to the same school and invite the same friends over to play. Some children ask why you decided to get a divorce. Yelling, throwing things, slamming doors or going to their rooms are other common reactions. Also, the immediate reaction is usually not the only reaction. As time goes on, kids continue have questions and reactions that you must be prepared to deal with.
You can expect your child’s adjustment to take awhile, but eventually, most children find a “new normal” that seems comfortable.
At C.E. Borman & Associates, we work closely with you to help you make your divorce and the transition from married to single go smoothly.