Children’s response to going through the divorce is as varied as the kids themselves. Some have a very hard time with it while others seem to take it in stride. My son, who was four at the time of our divorce, took it quite well. He never showed signs of anger and seemed quite content. In fact, as an adult, he has remarked how he felt it was for the best and never regretted the divorce. He saw his dad and dad’s family often and everyone loved on him, I am grateful that he just never wished it hadn’t happened. We moved in with my mom so he got to live with his grandma and that was a plus.
On the other hand, I have witnessed just the opposite in other families. Years after the divorce, some kids may still be grieving the loss of their family. Now grieving is important but if you get stuck there, that’s when some problems can occur.
Just like adults, kids will have a range of emotions about the divorce. Some days will be easier than others. It is considered normal for kids to experience anger, anxiety and mild depression. Let’s look at these individually.
- Anger: Your kids may be plain ol’ angry that their family is not what it once was. They may not understand and even if they do, they are still angry. Their world is different now. They may feel anger at you and your spouse for not making your marriage work out somehow. Their sense of what is normal has been impacted. They may have underlying feelings of abandonment. So they are angry.
- Anxiety: It is quite normal for kids to feel uneasy or worried about the future. They may be full of questions concerning the future. How will it all work out? Will I be okay? Will Mom and Dad still love me? Will I get to have time with both of them? They are experiencing some big changes in their life and feeling some agitation and perhaps some concern is certainly understandable.
- Mild Depression: Sadness about the divorce coupled with hopelessness and helplessness can lead to mild depression. Encouraging your kids with time, love and reassurance should prove to help them to heal. But if your child’s symptoms worsen or never seem to diminish, it may be necessary to seek professional help. As I stated, my son took our divorce quite well but as a safeguard to future problems, I sought professional help for him. I think it helped to ward off any future ill effects. There is absolutely no shame in seeking help for emotional wounds.
Now it will take some time for your kids to work through their issues about the divorce but you should see moderate improvement over time. One little guy I knew whose parents divorced when he was about three became very angry. He went from being a very mild child to erupting and crying over things that would not have bothered him before. When the anger did not subside after the time his parent thought it should, help was sought. Today that child is doing quite well.
But if things get worse and not better, it could be a sign that your child is suffering from depression. And divorce-related depression can happen even years after the divorce.
Some red flags to look for are:
- Sleep problems
- Poor concentration
- School difficulties
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Self-injury such as cutting, or eating disorders
- Frequent angry or violent outbursts
- Withdrawal from loved ones
- Refusing to do loved activities
I recently coached, through Skype, a nine year old who was having sleep problems and she had stopped doing the things she formerly loved to do. She retreated from loved ones and social activities that she had enjoyed before. She was suffering from depression. We went through a book together and she was required to answer questions, which opened the door for our conversations. She at first did not want to do our sessions but soon came to the place of looking forward to our Skype times. She is a much happier child today and doing well in school. She was able to get out her fears and concerns and now she is back doing the things she loves and sleeping through the night. Sometimes kids just need a safe place to let out what is bothering them. Her parent was wise to address those symptoms before they moved to larger ones.
If you do see any of the above warning signs, please discuss them with your child’s doctor. Make their teacher aware of what is going on. And you may need to consult a Christian child therapist or coach for guidance in helping you to help your child. And of course the therapist or coach can help your child with specific problems. I believe that the whole person needs to be cared for when seeking help. We are made up of spirit, mind and body. Look for someone who understands this and can help all three parts of your child.
2 Corinthians 4:16 : Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
Thanks for joining me today. I look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me at nouveaulifecoaching.com
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- Blending Your StepFamily 33: Supporting Your Child