A Child's Perspective of Divorce
There’s no denying divorce is tough on children. Home is supposed to be a loving, protective, inviting environment, but when divorce occurs, it can create fear, anger, sadness, and any number of other painful emotions. Depending on the age and personality of your child, they will have different reactions to divorce. While divorce is not easy, there are ways to make it a healthy learning environment for everyone.
My parents’ divorce took four years to finalize; four years of bickering and degrading one another. This is why I have a passion to assist families, helping them find tools to create a nurturing environment.
First, parents need to understand how children view and experience divorce. While every child will respond differently, there are some common themes of behavior that children may exhibit. First, a child may experience some level of blame. We’ve all had moments where we’ve thought, “I could have done this differently and it might have prevented this from happening.” Children do this too. It is important to help your child talk about what they’re feeling and express their emotions. Some children may be very reluctant to share what they’re feeling.
Another common theme for children of divorce is fear. They could be scared of how their parents will react to what they’re feeling. They may worry one parent will feel like they are taking sides or choosing one parent over another. This could feel very scary to a child or adolescent and it is important to assure them they are safe to express their feelings.
They also may not want to appear “fragile” or “weak.” Appearing fragile, or allowing oneself to be vulnerable, is not always culturally acceptable. But in reality, it takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is a sign of strength but is uncomfortable for most people. Becoming vulnerable will take time, but it could help the child develop a better sense of self.
One other common theme is that of independence. When children are in grade school or high school, they want acceptance and approval from their peers more than from their parents. As parents, do your best to get to know your child while not pushing too hard. Remember, you are the parent and don’t try to be their best friend. Leave the door open and trust that in time your child will come to you.