Loyalties are always tested in divorce. The process is difficult on adults and families. Loyalties are greatly tested on the couple’s sons and daughters. Children of all ages, but especially those who are minors or still living at home, can be traumatized by divorce. They often are burdened by feeling of sadness, guilt, anger, and confusion. Besides that, children can be acting out and feeling anxiety when their parents are going through the divorce process. It is important to learn and understand how children of different ages and sexes cope with divorce. This will help you understand how to approach the topic of divorce with your child and help the divorce process go smoother.
In this issue, I’ll talk about how a PeacefulSplit® Divorce mediation helps to minimize the risk of your children having divided loyalties.
How divided loyalties affect children of different ages?
Infants do not have the cognitive ability to understand or comprehend divorce and its emotions. Children whose parents divorced when they were infants have no memory of the divorce and generally grow up having no memories of their parents ever being together.
Toddlers (ages 2-5) have limited cognitive ability to understand divorce or their own emotions. They will miss the parent that used to live at home. It is nearly impossible to explain divorce to a toddler. They are not able to cope with their love of each parent and the fact that they are no longer living together.
School-age children (ages 6-12) often take divorce the hardest. Although they understand the concept of divorce, their active imaginations hold onto the belief that their parents may someday get back together. At these ages, children are egocentric and tend to believe that the divorce is somehow their fault. They often conjure-up ways to reconcile their parent’s relationship. Children at this age go through a grieving process during divorce and may often feel anger, aggression, sadness, and hostility towards one parent or the other. Withdraw from social and academic activities is common.
Teenagers (ages 13-19) have a much more developed understanding of divorce. They have likely witnessed other family members or friends’ parents go through divorce. They understand the concepts and general repercussions of infidelity, mistrust, and betrayal. This can lead teenagers to place the blame of the divorce on one parent. They will often feel compelled to choose sides in the divorce. Their loyalties are divided between both parents. Therefore, this time-period leads some teens to become rebellious and be more susceptible to experimenting with drugs or alcohol. Some teens feel that if they work extremely hard in school and get amazing grades and are very compliant, perhaps their parents will reconcile.
Always be mindful how your child’s age affects their understanding of divorce.
Does divorce affect boys and girls differently?
Studies have shown that boys and girls react differently to their parents’ divorce. Both sexes experience negative impacts from divorce, including coping with where their loyalties remain: mom or dad. More importantly, parents going through divorce – and especially post-divorce – should work hard and collaboratively to ensure that their sons and daughters never have to choose sides.
Parents of boys impacted by pre- or post-divorce issues may find it easier to notice the impact. This is because boys tend to act-out behaviorally and expressively. Conversely, girls may internalize their emotions and while very much impacted, may not clearly show it externally.
Hetherington & Kelly (2002) found that boys tended to get less emotional support than girls from their parents during and after divorce. This failure to address boys’ needs negatively impacts their ability to cope in healthy ways about their parents’ divorce.
Girls learn that expressing emotions is a positive characteristic and behavior. Boys tend to believe that showing emotions is a sign of weakness. They learn to “man-up” or “just keep it inside”. This restriction often has negative effects on children as they grow into adults. There are many methods you can take to help your children understand their feelings during the divorce process, regardless if they are boys or girls.
Always be mindful to encourage your child’s free expression of their feelings and emotions.
Here at PeacefulSplit® Mediation, our sole mission is guide, comfort, and assist you and your spouse or partner so that you can obtain a peaceful divorce. Most importantly, we never judge you based upon your values, beliefs, culture, ethnicity, race, gender or sexual orientation.
If you and your spouse are ready for a PeacefulSplit® Mediation, or are just contemplating divorce, I am here to help by answering all of your questions and explaining to the both of you the benefits of a PeacefulSplit® Mediation. Both parties are sometimes on the same page. Other times there are big difference. I am available to help you under either scenario.
If you are ready to divorce, want to avoid a financially and emotionally draining legal battle, and desire an economical “PeacefulSplit® Mediation” or just want more information about the divorce mediation process, then Attorney and Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator, Eric B. Epstein, Esq., is ready to assist you. Call me at 954-272-8292.