A divorce is a seismic shift in the world of a child, most often signaling a huge loss — the loss of their family unit. All children, from infants to even adult children are impacted by a parent’s divorce. The first step is to try and understand that the impact is real and find ways to offer support depending on their age and temperament. Here are some overall age specific guidelines for supporting your kids through a pending divorce.
Under 18 months: Children under the age of 18 months will feel the tension between two parents but do not yet understand anything behind the conflict. Verbal communication skills are limited, so you may notice that they become more clingy and have trouble with separation. The most helpful thing that you can do to comfort a young child during a divorce is to offer a schedule and security, particularly around mealtimes and bedtime.
18 months-3 years: Toddlers this age are very egocentric and may feel a separation acutely and blame themselves. This may lead to more crying and tantrums than usual, and regression on things like potty training and falling asleep alone at night. It is important to maintain any/all aspect of a routine, provide extra love and attention and trying to explain the basics of the situation so that it is clear from this young age that this separation is not their fault.
3 years-6 years: Preschool age kids tend to also internalize the divorce and may blame themselves for the change. The actual change will be particularly difficult for this age group, as they thrive on a predictable routine. The good news is that at this age, the kids can begin to understand more, so open conversations about the divorce and what exactly will happen as a result can yield positive results.
6 years – 11 years: School-age kids may feel a sense of loss and fear related to a concern about losing one parent or the other. These kids may feel rejected, as if the parents are actually divorcing them. It is important to pay attention to building self-esteem, and encouraging kids to have social outlets and participate in extracurricular activities can be helpful. An open communication style is also critical for this age group.
Mediation As A Tool For Helping Families During A Divorce
Our Mediation and Parenting Services can help you and your ex-spouse find solutions for a separation or divorce that work for your unique family structure, paying special attention to the needs of your children. If you would like more information about how mediation can help your family through this difficult transition, contact AMS Mediation at 1-952-252-1492.