When children of divorce begin to get a little older, they have become more used to their family situation. They understand that they have two parents who love and take care of them, and even though their family may look a little different, it still is a family to them.
For these children, it can be hard to distinguish the two separate families unless they really think about it. It may not even dawn on them to consider that, due to how integral they, themselves, are to both family dynamics.
This is primarily due to how children view the world in relation to themselves. Many children in early stages of development view the world from an egocentric perspective and believe that it all revolves around them.
Impact of egocentrism
According to the University of Michigan School of Medicine, it is a normal tendency and not considered selfishness. Because of how young the children may be, they may not be able to understand different points of view, which is why young children can find themselves feeling responsible if something bad happens in their lives, regardless of their own involvement.
Egocentricism is a concept derived from Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, according to the University of Notre Dame. Because of a young child’s inability to infer the perspective of others, the egocentric young child attributes their own perspective to others.
This is part of the reason that many young children jump to the conclusion that their parents’ divorce is somehow their fault. When two parents get divorced, one parent typically has to leave the family home and becomes a noncustodial parent. That absence causes the young child to blame themselves, thinking that the parent has left them, according to California State University Northridge.
Getting older and social learning
As a child gets older, they learn that the noncustodial parent did not leave, and even though they are no longer married and living together, the child still has two parents.
It can be a difficult conclusion for a child to come to, especially with how reliant they are on the social aspects of their day-to-day lives. Being at school and hearing other children talk about their family can cause them to think about their own, reflecting on questions they still have. What is my family? How should I talk about them? Will the other kids accept me, if I tell them that my family is different?
For them, the social standards supersede anything occurring at home. As children get older they begin to prioritize their friends and school time over time with their family, but in the cases of children of divorce, they are forced to prioritize family time, because if they do not, the child won’t have the opportunity to see the noncustodial parent.
When they enter their preteen and teenage years, they are more understanding of what is asked of them. They understand the importance of valuing the time that they get to spend with both parents and that even though the parents are no longer together, they still are not ‘family-less.’
Helping your child
As a parent, a preteen or a teenage child of divorce still may need help. If the divorce occurred when they were younger, they may not be as emotionally impacted as they may have been earlier, but they still may have their moments. It also is important to establish boundaries for the parent-child relationship, in order to ensure that the parent does not debase their co-parent to their child.
A parent has a lot of influence when a child is at that age, and it is important that a parent not use a child as a confidant, in order to vent about the opposite parent. Not only does that blur the lines between the power dynamic of a parent and child, but it colors the child’s opinion of the other parent.
An older child already has enough to deal with during their preteen and teenage years without having to sort through what aspects of what is being said is the parents’ opinion and what is actually factual. They may have just adjusted fully to how they see their family and do not need that image to be sabotaged.
The image that matters
Families are never perfect. Even if both parents are married, it still may not be the ideal situation that you may think it is. Everyone has faults, and as a child gets older, they gain a better understanding of that.
They understand that their family might not be like other families, but they also understand that that is okay. They do not need that image of someone else’s family, if their family features two parents, who despite their difference, are able to create loving and stable homes for them to grow and flourish in.
Despite all of the emotion and history that may exist between the two parents, the child is able to facilitate a common link that is more important than what occurred during the divorce and custody battles. The parents put the child first, and that is the only image that matters to the child.