It seems that more and more marriages are falling apart everyday. Divorce ratesseen to be climbing astronomically. In so many of these divorces there arechildren to be considered.
What is best for the child? Who will get custody?Will the child be scarred for life? Its really hard to say. The overalleffects on our children vary according to the factors involved. I am going toattempt to discuss a few of the problems that can occur with children ofdivorced families and what parents can do to ease the transition. I will limitthis discussion to infantile age thru early elementary aged children. Letsstart with understanding the parents role concerning being together or beingapart.
Obviously, two parents can provide children with far more guidance,sustenance, and protection than one, and are more likely to prevent the kinds ofpsychological disturbance that may result from deprivations of these necessities. . . When one parent is temporarily absent from the intact home, it is likely thatthe other will be available to ratify the childs needs in a loving way. Thisis not so readily the situation in the divorced home.
( Gardner, 1977). In thisstatement he illustrates the importance of having both parents together. Thiscan be emphasized further with a statement from Buchanan, Maccoby, and Dornbusch(1996). Childrens parents are their anchors. Parents provide the structurefor childrens daily lives, and even when parents are not functioning verywell, children depend on them for a sense of security that enables them to copewith their developmental tasks. When one parent leaves the home, the childrealizes a shattering possibility; parents are not always there.
It is not hardto realize that divorce can have a devastating effect on children. Lets brakeit down by age groups; infants, toddlers, and so on. DeBorg (1997) states thatinfants do not understand conflict, but may react to changes in parentsenergy level and mood. She goes on to list possible reactions like loss ofappetite; upset stomach – may spit up more; more fretful or anxious.
She saysthat parents should keep their normal routines, and stay calm in frontof the child. Toddlers understand that a parent has moved away, butdoesnt understand why. I know that my son was very confused. He was onlytwo when my wife and I separated. He seemed to display allot of anger andinsecurity.
DeBorg says that a toddlers reactions could include more crying,clinging; problems sleeping; regression to infant behaviors; and worry whenparent is out of sight. My son, his name is Cody, definitely fits thisprofile. He cried constantly. It seemed that nothing would calm him down.
If yougot him to go to sleep, good luck keeping him there. As far as infant behaviorsgo, his biggest problems were wanting to be rocked like when he was younger andtrying to go back to the bottle. DeBorg say to allow some return to infantilebehaviors, but set clear limits. Easier said than done I can assure you. Preschoolers dont understand what separation or divorce means, theyrealize one parent is not as active in his or her life (DeBorg, 1997). Their reactions could include pleasant and unpleasant fantasies; feelinguncertain about the future; feeling responsible; and they may hold their angerinside.
Deborgs first strategy listed for parents is to encourage thechild to talk. This makes sense if you are concerned with straitening outthese issues of anger and feeling responsible. It seems to be the only way toreally understand your childs problems. Gardner (1977, p.
42) talks ofsomething called the oedipal phase. He explains that this occurs betweenages three and five. This is the period. . .
when a child develops a strongpossessive attachment to the opposite-sexed parent. Gardner says that attimes the attraction can take on mildly sexual overtones toward theopposite-sexed parent. . . , but the sexual desires are generally not forintercourse, the child being too young to appreciate that act. He explainsthat if a boy begins sleeping in Mothers bed thoughout the night, an acontinual basis, the likelihood that oedipal problems will arise is great.
. . this holds true for a father and daughter when they are the ones who remaintogether following the separation(p. 91). Learning of this has raised myconcerns for my son. His mother lets him sleep with her every night, and shebelieves nothing is wrong with the arrangement.
This is a factor I will dealwith on my own, as soon as I figure out what to do. Continuing on to earlyelementary age, childrens understanding becomes more apparent. DeBorg (1997)says that children begin to understand what divorce is, and understandthat her or his parents wont live together anymore and that they may not loveeach other as before. Reactions, as she describes, could include feelings ofdeception and a sense of loss. Children have hopes that parents will get backtogether, and feel rejected by the parent who left. Children of thisage can have symptoms of illness like loss of appetite, sleep problems,diarrhea and may complain of headaches or stomach aches.
DeBorg doesnot list any ways of curving these symptoms of illness, however she does listsome strategies for helping these children adjust. She writes, encourage thechild to talk about how he or she feels; answer all questions about changes. . .
;and reassure the child. From my standpoint, these ideas hold true regardlessof the situation. You should always encourage your children to talk about therefeelings and always take them seriously. A word of advice: Children can adjustto divorce. It is years of subsequent fighting between their parents, or aninappropriate child custody plan that can take a terrible toll (Olsen, 1998).
So if you want to help your children succeed, then help them adjust to yourdivorce together; mom and dad. Never let them feel that they cannot have arelationship with the other parent if at all possible. BibliographyGardner, R. A. (1977).
The Parents Book About Divorce. Garden City, NY:Doubleday & Company, Inc. Buchanan, C. M.
, Maccoby, E. E. , & Dornbusch,S. M. (1996).
Adolescents After Divorce. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UniversityPress. DeBorg, K. (1997). Focus on Kids: The Effects of Divorce On Children. http://www.
nncc. org/child. dev/effectsdivorce. html Olsen, P.
(1998). ChildCustody Savvy. http://www.savvypsych.com/Psychology