Navigating the Emotional Landscape of a Child of Divorce

  • A child's emotional development can be affected by a parental divorce.
  • Seeking professional help can be beneficial for a child of divorce.
  • A child can throw themselves into specific habits or behaviors, in order to avoid dealing with the emotional fallout of a parental divorce.

Children already have a lot to deal with in their own development. Often times, it seems like an endless amount of the world that they are faced with learning and discovering, leaving them overwhelmed by it all. In many instances, children find themselves learning through their interactions with others.

This can often result in the social and emotional well-being being dictated by the company that your child interacts with on a regular basis. Their peers, their teachers, their siblings, or their parents all have an influence on that, which can mean that the positive or negative moments in their lives can have an effect on your child in some way.

For many children, a parental divorce can be that moment of intense learning. They see the two most important pillars in their lives ending their relationship. They see and hear all of the marital discord that occurs before the separation, and they see their construct of what a family should be slowly ending. It can cause a sharp emotional reaction, and as a parent, it is important to monitor that at all times.

A child’s understanding

For example, a child’s learning experience involves building emotional strategies for handling situations, based on how they see others handle similar situations. According to research from Kansas State University, children develop the understanding that other people, besides themselves, have thoughts and feelings between the ages of 3 and 5. This means that for children of divorce, they can sometimes find themselves affected by the breakdown of their parents’ relationship and emulate some of their behaviors later down the line in their own relationships.

Children find themselves seeking sentiments in others, in order to better understand them for themselves. According to the studies, when a child realizes she or he has thoughts and emotions, she or he can better understand that others do, as well. The same goes for finding value in others or seeking respect for their own feelings and ideas. If they realize it for themselves, they are better equipped to show it to others.

For children of divorce, the attitude of emulating what you see can be dangerous and can create hazardous behaviors. Depending on a child’s age and maturity, disciplinary issues can surface, which will need correcting. Correcting these issues, while dealing with the fallout of a divorce on multiple levels, is a challenging endeavor that will require patience and can require professional help.

Seeking help

According to Good Therapy, parents can often find themselves consumed by their own feelings during the divorce experience, which may result in them overlooking the emotional state of their children. Children can sometimes find themselves feeling abandonment, loss, pain, guilt, or blame for the break up.

Therapy is an effective way at gauging your child’s emotional landscape during the divorce experience. With how many different emotions and actions that a parental divorce can expose to a child, it is important to maintain a level of understanding to where your child is emotionally and how your actions have affected the emotional development.

Navigating emotions and behaviors

A parental divorce can cause a child to see the world differently or feel about certain topics differently. Depending on their age and maturity, they may lose a level of innocence that they once possessed. Anger and confusion may become a mainstay in their outlook. They may throw themselves in an activity like sports or music, in order to release their frustrations. They may throw themselves into their schoolwork, in order to avoid thinking about what is actually bothering them.

They may find themselves isolating themselves, avoiding maintaining friendships with their normal social circles. They also may find themselves with an enormous social calendar, in an effort to avoid dealing with the emotional landscape of the divided family dynamic.

These behaviors are entirely dependent on the child as an individual and their personality. Parents need to keep in mind how their child reacts to bad news and how long it typically takes them to process it. If they have never been exposed to any sort of life changes, patience is key in helping them transition to unfamiliar emotional territory.

While you, as a divorcing individual, are dealing with your own array of emotions, your child still is depending on you to be their emotional compass to help guide them to healthier emotional terrain. It is a difficult task to manage both sides of this, and additional children can make it all the more challenging.

However, as a parent, nothing is more important than helping your children to the best of your abilities. Whether it is before, during, or after the divorce process, your children need to understand that while you are no longer married to your co-parent, they still have two parents who will love them and take care of them, regardless of their own marital statuses.

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