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Signs of Stress in Children of Divorce

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Sometimes parents who are going through a divorce may need help identifying signs of stress in their children, especially young children. These are some of the typical experiences and signs of stress in children of different ages whose parents are divorcing or have divorced:

Infants and Toddlers
-Regression in terms of sleeping, toilet training or eating, slowing down in the mastery of new skill development
-Sleep disturbances, difficulty going to sleep and frequent waking

-Clinginess- difficulty with leaving their parent
-General cranky behavior, temper tantrums, crying

Preschool (Three to Five Years)
-Regression, returning to security objects, such as blankets and old toys, lapses in toilet training, thumb sucking
-Immature grasp of what has happened, making up fantasy stories, confusion
-Blaming themselves and feeling guilty
-Bedtime anxiety, frequent waking
-Fear of being abandoned by both parents, clingy behavior
-Increased irritability, aggression, temper tantrums

Early Latency (Six to Eight Years)
-Persistent sadness, feeling abandoned and rejected
-Uncontrollable crying
-Afraid of their worst fears coming true
-Reconciliation fantasies
-Loyalty conflicts, feeling torn between two parents
-Problems with impulse control, disorganized behavior

Late Latency (Nine to Twelve Years)
-Able to see family disruption clearly, tries to bring order to the situation
- Fear of loneliness
-Intense anger at the parent they blame for causing the divorce
-Physical complaints, such as headaches and stomachaches
-May become overactive to avoid thinking about the divorce
-Feel ashamed of what is happening in their family; feel they are different from other children

Adolescents (Twelve to Eighteen Years)
-Fear of being isolated and lonely
-Experience parents as leaving them; feel that parents are not available to them
-Feel hurried to achieve independence
-Worry about their future relationships
-Discomfort with a parent’s dating and sexuality
-Chronic fatigue, difficulty concentrating
-Mourn the loss of the family of their childhood

Studies show that divorce is not to be considered as an acute stress/crisis in the lives of children, rather an event that may have long term consequences on psychosocial aspects of children, adolescents and young adults. The lives of well-adjusted or poorly adjusted children can stem from the child’s post divorce quality of life and/or remarried parent-child relationships.

Divorce and the subsequent consequences can all have a significant and life-altering influence on the well-being and development of children and adolescents. These consequences influence almost all areas of a child’s life, including the parent-child relationship, emotions, behaviors, psychological development as well as coping skills. There may be a greater need for mental health interventions in order to provide enough support for children of divorced families in all aspects of a child’s life.

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EmpowHER Guest

There are ways to talk to your child about divorce http://www.weinbergerlawgroup.com/blog/newjersey-child-parenting-issues/talking-to-your-child-about-divorce/ that from the get go can help the process to be less devastating. Children need certainty, which can be the very opposite of divorce. Do what you can to send that message that the child is very important to both of you and everything is going to be okay.

July 15, 2012 - 7:17pm
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