As parents, we always worry about what may negatively impact our children and their lives. A single parent raising a child—especially one who has to deal with a separation—tends to worry even more, as they are aware that separations, divorce, and bringing up a kid in two different homes can affect the child’s state of mind throughout their adulthood. We would want parents to be as educated on this matter as possible to avoid putting their children through unnecessary harm.
So, read on to learn how a legal separation affects your child’s future
Small children are affected by their parents separating almost immediately. They will begin to feel a sense of loss once one parent no longer lives under the same roof. With one parent now absent, they will feel that their home no longer feels like it used to, and they will miss life as they knew it.
Young children may also start to behave differently and test these new boundaries. They may try to act out during this time of unfamiliarity. Children need to feel safe and secure, and such drastic changes destabilize them and cause them to adopt emotional and behavioral problems. This is especially the case if the parents continue to fight and create tension between one another.
As the child ages into middle school, the effects of a legal separation grow. They will now become fearful of being left alone, especially if the parent that has left the home does not make much time for them anymore. The child may start to believe that if one parent has abandoned them, the other will soon follow. In order to prevent this, family lawyers at btlfamilylaw.com often use mediation as a tool to resolve disputes. This mainly aims at relieving the child’s stress, as an early adolescent is likely to blame themselves for the separation and constantly worry about whether they have caused the rift.
Without proper support, early adolescents may begin to feel rejected and insecure; this can also cause them to act younger than they are and seek attention through disobedience, clinginess, or nightmares. They can also develop signs of becoming a recluse if they are subjected to bullying or harassment at school. At this age, children will also feel torn between parents if both still play an active role in their lives, and even more so if the parents act immaturely and pit the children against the other parent.
By the time a child becomes a teenager, the impacts of the divorce or separation worsen. They tend to show signs of anger toward one or both parents due to the lack of a familiar family dynamic. Their schoolwork may suffer as they withdraw from ordinary social settings. They may also seek attention, which exposes them to unwanted influences. They might grow resentful of the situation they have been thrown into, no matter how long ago the separation began.
Since adolescence can already make a person insecure, teenagers are likely to feel that they have been rejected by their parents. They may, therefore, believe this will be a common occurrence with everyone they encounter. Dealing with the unknown may cause them to act out in damaging ways. Their self-image and self-esteem may falter.
Some self-aware individuals do recover well when they reach adulthood, especially those who, perhaps, seek therapy to repair the damage that occurred during their parents’ separation or those whose parents made the transition as easy as possible. However, many other people still carry scars from this traumatic period of time. Adult children of divorce or separation usually develop abandonment issues and struggle to overcome those in their own romantic relationships. Their perception of a happy, healthy relationship is distorted, ensuring that their trust issues remain intact.
Adult children of divorce or separation may never quite master a healthy self-image or develop healthy relationships. However, this isn’t the case with all children of divorce, depending on how the parents approach the situation.
How Parents Can Help Their Children Cope
Regardless of the age of your children, you can help them deal with the situation by encouraging honesty. It is important that you make your children feel that what they feel is important to you, so help them put their feelings into words. This is because oftentimes, their bottled up feelings show through their behavior. As such, try to be a good listener, even if hearing what they have to say is difficult on your part too.
In talking with your children, make it a habit to legitimize their feelings and practice empathy by telling them that you know how they feel. After which, offer your support to them and ask them what can help them feel better. If they cannot pinpoint or name something, suggest a few ideas. It might be that they just need you to sit beside them or hug them.
In parallel, ensure that you and your children are healthy, amidst this stressful situation in your lives. Find a way to manage your stress level, such that it doesn’t have to transcend to your children. Apart from your emotional health, keep yourself physically healthy too in order to be able to combat the effects of stress in your life. Take care of your needs such that you will be in the best position to take care of the needs of your children.
As you can see, a legal separation does affect a child throughout different stages of their lives. The best thing you can do as parents is to make the transition as smooth as possible. Studies have shown that parents who work together, minimize tension and arguments, co-parent, and remain involved in their children’s lives leave a more positive impact on a child’s state of mind and future. To ensure a child of divorce does have a bright future, we must minimize the issues and traumas that result from separation.