Divorce is often a tough situation for everyone concerned, and children are frequently the most innocent of those involved. Of all the divorce issues such as debt, property, child custody and visitation, the health and welfare of your young child should be a top priority. Ensuring that you and your partner do everything you can to minimize the trauma on your child should not just be another area of contention, but an ongoing concern. How you two behave towards each other during this time can affect not just your divorce proceedings, but your child.
Read on to learn more about recognizing the signs of stress in your young child during divorce.
Signs of Stress in Young Children
For very young children who are not able to adequately verbalize their unhappiness, you may need to look a little deeper for coping mechanism signs.
1. Make Believe: Young children thrive on fantasy and this behavior is considered normal, but if the object of the stories they weave involve you and your partner reuniting, you may have a child who is building a fantasy world. The child is using fantasy as a coping mechanism for denial of reality.
2. Abandonment Fears: You may notice that your child seems far more insecure that usual and has become more clingy. For example, they may worry that you won't return to pick them up from a play date or preschool and refuse to part with you. Young children may misinterpret divorce to mean that you are divorcing them.
3. Guilt: Divorce is far too complex an action for young children to understand, and your explanations often confuse them even more. Be very aware of your interactions when you are together with your partner in your child's presence, since they could interpret any negative behavior as being their fault. You may hear your toddler express that they will be a "good girl" if daddy and mommy will get back together.
4. Regression: Divorce can cause fear in a child, triggering a backward step in their developmental path. For example, a young child may begin to use "baby talk" again, and bed-wetting may make an unwelcome return.
5. Blame: Children are amazingly sensitive when it comes to picking up on clues about wrongdoing. No matter how much you may try to hide it, your negative feelings about your partner are bound to surface. Often, the young child will feel the need to take the side of one parent over another, and may be reluctant to spend time with the other parent. This naturally can cause the parents even more distress, leading to accusations of undue influence by one parent.
Just knowing what to look for can help alleviate some of the unknowns when dealing with children who cannot express their feelings very well. For emotional and developmental issues that you and your partner cannot deal with, contact a family therapist for support during the divorce process and after.
For mental health services, contact a company such as Dr. Stephen Brown & Associates.