Getting a divorce from your spouse can have a major emotional and psychological effect on everyone in the family, including the children. Children are innocent bystanders in a divorce. In many instances, they do not know what is happening or why it is happening.
Despite this traumatic experience, most children have an amazing ability to adapt to their changed environment. Regardless of their ability to adapt, there is always the risk that children will have long term psychological and emotional trauma that could manifest itself in many ways.
Divorce and Child Custody Fights Between Parents Can Cause a Host of Emotional and Psychological Issues in Children
Even with divorces that are as amicable as possible and with no contested issues and everyone is getting along, children can still have issues given the fact that they are young and may not understand adult issues. But when the divorce is either contested or there are significant conflicts between the parties, such as a child custody fight, then this can significantly heighten the trauma experienced by the kids.
Emotional trauma in children may not be obvious. There are certain signs and symptoms that a child can demonstrate to look out for. Often, the acting out and other actions are a subconscious call for help because of them feeling bad, alone, or even guilty because they may think they contributed to their parents splitting up. The ‘acting out patterns’ parents should look for will depend upon the age of their children:
- Toddlers can demonstrate areas of regression in actions like sleeping patterns, bathroom and toilet training, more temper tantrums, reluctance to leave the side of one parent or the other, and excess crying.
- Three- to five-year-olds can demonstrate emotional issues by returning to previously discarded security blankets, toys, and thumb sucking. They can also regress on their bathroom habits, having bedtime anxiety, irritability, and wetting their beds.
- Six-to eight-year-olds will sometimes demonstrate more sadness and signs of depression, having reconciliation fantasies about their parents, inability to sleep through the night, nightmares, generalized anxious behavior.
- Nine- to 12-year-olds begin to show more adult emotions, demonstrating anger and blame toward the parent that is perceived, by them, as the cause of the break-up. Sometimes nine-to 12-year-olds demonstrate stress and anxiety through various physical symptoms, including headaches, stomach problems, mysterious illnesses that prevent them from going to school. This age group will begin to demonstrate embarrassment about the situation when it comes to how it looks to their friends and peer group.
- Teenagers will demonstrate a wide range of emotions and outward signs of the stress and anxiety that they are experiencing. Their actions and emotions are close to how adults might act, especially with older teenagers. Teenagers might have sleeping issues and be tired during school. This can lead to lack of concentration and lower grades over time.
Many of these signs and symptoms can be difficult to spot at first, especially if children do not want to add to the stress and anxiety that their parents are going through.
What Can Divorcing Parents Do to Help Their Children Cope?
When parents get divorced and have custody battles, there are things that they can do to limit the stress that their children go through. The main thing to do is to always have the best interest of your child in mind and work toward that. If both parents have the best interest of their children in mind first and foremost, their children will have the best chance to get through the divorce without too much psychological damage.
If your circumstances involve a co-parent that is abusive or they are addicted to drugs or alcohol, acting in this way may not be an option for you. If the other parent is truly a toxic individual and there is a possibility of physical or verbal abuse, attempt to keep clear of them as much as possible. Here are some “best practices” for parents to follow regarding their children’s mental health:
- Try not to fight and argue in front of your children.
- Do not talk negatively about the other parent in front of your children.
- Make sure other people such as other family members do not say bad things about the other parent.
- Keep open lines of communications with the other parent.
- Do not use your children to hurt the other parent in some manner.
- Do not engage in parental alienation toward the other parent where you slowly manipulate your children to not want to spend time with the other parent.
- Do not introduce other girlfriends or boyfriends into your children’s lives soon after the split up.
- Do not introduce other partners into your children’s lives until and unless you know the relationship is going to be a serious one.
Focusing on the above will at least help your children cope with the divorce in the best possible way.
Towson Family Law Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC Help with People and Families Work Through Divorces and Conflicts About Child Custody
If you are contemplating getting a divorce, or are currently going through a divorce and you have questions, we have the answers. Our Towson family law lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC treat their clients with compassion, understanding, and provide honest answers to their divorce, child custody, and child support questions. Call us at 443-589-0150 or fill out our online form for a free consultation. Located in Hunt Valley and Towson, Maryland, we proudly serve the communities of Baltimore, Baltimore County, Bel Air, Bentley Springs, Columbia, Freeland, Hereford, Hampton, Westminster, Essex, Monkton, Sparks Glencoe, Parkton, Phoenix, Pikesville, White Hall, Carroll County, Harford County, and Howard County.