The rate of divorce in the United States is approximately forty to fifty percent involving families with children. A majority of children experience the consequences of divorce as painful. Children will go through similar responses to divorce such as fright, guilt, depression, and rage. Throughout and instantly following the divorce a child maybe coping with changes such as losing a parent, the marital disagreement and family ineffectiveness that lead to the separation, the adjustment in parent-child relations that could be affiliated with short-term distress and emotional neediness of family members, and other threats to the comfort of the child that are evoked by the uncertainty of the circumstances.
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Divorce can happen at any age for the child but at certain age’s children’s development are more affected. Children depend on their parents when they are younger so only having one parent around can affect them. There is the infancy stage, pre-school years, school age, and adolescence stage. During the infancy stage the mother may be so overwhelmed from the circumstances that it may lead to depression and she will not be able to perform her motherly duties to the infant properly. Disturbances in feeding, sleeping, and elimination patterns could occur if the infant is not being taken care of correctly. If the mother does not have depression, she would be spending more time away from her child because she would have to work more which means that a daycare or babysitter would have to take care of the infant. In the preschool years from ages three to five the child is more alert that a parent is missing. The child’s personality and coping mechanisms now play a role as well and they try to understand the reason for the separation. Some changes that may occur are starting to have tantrums, wetting or defecating in the pants, different eating and sleeping habits. During this period the child develops affection towards the parent of the opposite sex. This could be a problem if you have a daughter and her father is not in her life. When the children are in the school age from age’s six to twelve the children’s influence of their parents lessens and the influence of the peers and teachers become significantly more important. Teachers and peers play a big role in a child’s development. When you interact with peers this means that you talk about yourself and your family. This could hurt a child whose parents are separated. During the adolescence stage, this means being independent from your parents. A majority of adolescence behaviors become unpredictable. They can act younger than they are like a child or act much older and mature like an adult. The effect of divorce on an adolescent can overstrain them as they try to break away from their loved ones, or it matures them faster into adulthood. Adolescents have the option to detach and seek help such as, at school, a peer or peer group, a relative, and in the neighborhood. Children may have rigorous or continuous disruptions in development, but some children go through the same situation and after everything is resolved they are well-functioned individuals.
Dealing with parental lost associated with divorce is extremely difficult for a child. They feel rejected, isolated, and powerless, they are hoping for reconciliation and hoping that the other parent will move back home. All of these make the child vulnerable for depression. This occurs most commonly in the twelve to fifteen year old age group.
When the family unit that provides organization and support breaks down this causes disorganization in the child’s life. Anxiety occurs within the child where by they may feel responsible for the divorce, torn between mom and dad. All of these feelings make the child anxious about rejection, abandonment, and not being loved. They did not want to anger their parents and were worried about their parents’ and own welfare. Parental divorce places children at risk for adjustment difficulties, so parents and teachers should be aware of these signs that appropriate intervention be given.
There are going to be different responses to the divorce depending on the gender of the child. The impact of divorce on boys is more vulnerable than the effects of divorce on girls. Boys will have behavior disorders and problems in interpersonal relations in school with peers and teachers and at home. Girls will have disturbances in emotional and social development which may disappear but reappear during adolescence because of problems with heterosexual relations. The loss of a father is more stressful for boys than for girls because a boy often craves a fatherly figure in his life and needs to learn appropriate sex-typed behavior, an occurrence that is not as vital for girls of the equivalent age.
There are several changes that children go through after the divorce is completed. The financial issue plays a big part when a mother or father attempts to raise a child. It is very difficult and stressful for parents. There are some women that depend on their husbands and when they get divorced, they have a difficult time financially and struggle. They will end up moving to affordable housing and is associated with a poorer community. When you move children to a different neighborhood they lose friends, neighbors, and enter a different educational system. Also, there may be delinquent children in the new neighborhood that a parent would not want their child associating with. The school system may be poor and the recreational activities will be lacking.
Clearly, a parent-child relationship is important but, that changes when a divorce occurs. There is still conflict between the parents and the child ends up in the middle of it. The parents are bad mouthing each other and trying to persuade the child to be against the other parent. For the most part a child wants to maintain a relationship with both of his/her parents. It is impossible to be able to decide which parent that you would want to reject and a child would not be able to make that decision. When a parent is talking negative about another parent, the child will be unsure how to view that parent.
When a father is absent from a child’s life it impacts them. This role could be taking over by a stepfather, a sibling, a friend, a neighbor etc. The fatherly role that is being taken over by someone else may be different from the actual father. There are several roles that a father plays in a family that is not divorced, which are supporting his wife economically, assisting with household duties, taking care of the child, emotionally being there for her, and shaping the child’s behavior. The child is not receiving these fatherly roles when he is absent and it could affect the child. Fathers are more likely to keep in contact with their son than their daughter. Fathers that are involved with their children have more of an impact on their child’s development, than do fathers who are not involved in their child’s life.
Helping your child through the divorce is essential. Parents should explain to them what is going on so they understand. How the parents explain divorce to the children and brings the problem to the open, lets the children know there is conflict between the parents. The parents should be working together for the well being of the children. It is important to discuss the child’s future; they must be honest with the children and tell them that you are unsure who they will be living with. Also, it is extremely important for you to allow the children to express their concerns and feelings and always keep it at their level.
Considering the large rate of divorce in this country, the effects of divorce vary depending on the development of the child during the first year prior to the divorce. The use of mental health professionals as the advisors of the court review where the child should be placed in the best custody. There are also utilized for visitation issues, disciplining of the child, and severe disturbances of the child. Regardless of these issues, the main concern and interest is the welfare of the child to sustain a healthy and stable emotional life.
As difficult as a divorce is on a child, the child needs continuity and should know what to expect. They need to know who they will be living with and should be disciplined by both parents the same way, no matter whose house they are at. Allow the child to voice his or her concern and express his or her feelings as well. Most importantly, there needs to be a relationship with both parents and extended families that their child’s emotional stability will remain intact.