Divorce, like the loss of a loved one, can be very difficult to cope with, especially for any children involved. Specialists say that it is important for parents to understand that all children handle divorce differently. Some may be more accepting of the separation while others may have trouble coping with their parents splitting.
Age and maturity level can both impact how a child copes with divorce. Younger children, on one hand, may not fully understand what divorce means, or have a full awareness of the situation, and may not experience as wide a range of emotions. Teenagers, on the other hand, may be fully aware of the situation and may struggle, especially with the Anger or Depression stages of loss. Additionally, parents should keep in mind that siblings may handle divorce differently. Each child’s perspectives, personality, and experiences will impact how they handle their parents’ divorce.
The five stages of loss and grief, such as when we lose a loved one, can also be associated with a child coping with divorce. It is important for parents to be available to help their children through each stage of the “divorce grief” process.
While children can pick up on the marital tension between their parents, most children do not predict divorce. At first, children are often overwhelmed by the idea of their parents separating. They may not believe the news. At this stage, children can also believe that their parent’s separation is temporary and that they will be back together in the near future.
Change is difficult, and children may experience anger and frustration when processing their parent’s divorce. During the anger stage, children may blame their parents for separating. They may feel they are not being treated fairly. They may also be angry at themselves, and feel that they are somehow responsible for their parent’s decision to split.
Stage three, depression and grief, can be difficult. The child may be visibly sad, and parents may notice changes in behavior. Social patterns, sleep habits, and eating behaviors may change. At this point, the child feels trapped, unable to help their parents or themselves. While some depression is expected, parents should take extra care to ensure their child’s depressive symptoms do not indicate a larger problem.
During the bargaining stage, children may believe that they have the ability to change the current situation. They may tell themselves that they can get their parent back together if they do better in school, or perform better on the soccer field. This stage is the child’s last effort to keep things as they were before.
The final stage, acceptance, involves the child coming to terms and accepting their new normal. The child will come to terms with the fact that their parents are not getting back together, but will understand that things will be okay. Parents can help bring their children to the acceptance phase by constantly encouraging them that no matter what happens, everything will be fine. Eventually, the child will start believing that too.
Despite divorce being emotionally challenging for parents themselves, both parents must take extra care to ensure their child is able to vocalize how they are feeling throughout the divorce process. Check in with your children often, and be there for guidance and emotional support. Remember that there is nothing wrong with seeking outside help, such as a therapist or counselor, if you believe your child is struggling.
If you believe you are headed towards a divorce, you need the help of a qualified Elmhurst, IL divorce attorney. Call the team at Weiss-Kunz & Oliver, LLC, today to learn more about the divorce support we offer. We will do everything in our power to ensure a beneficial outcome for you and your children. Schedule a consultation with us over the phone at 312-605-4041 to get started.