المجلس العالمي للتسامح والسلام

How can we protect children from the negative effects of divorce?

By Cecilia Doumit

From one day to the next, and without prior notice, Rebecca, a 9-year-old girl, found herself living with her mother in her grandparents’ house, leaving behind her room, her bed, her toys, and even her clothes. This little girl is so attached to her father, who used to play with her every night after coming back home from work. He was also the one who used to drive her to school every morning. And what makes the situation even more complicated is her mother’s shouts and anger fits every time the little girl asks her about him, not to mention the insults and accusations that the mother throws at him. Today, Rebecca is in the hospital, as she has refrained from eating meals day after day, and suffers severe pain in her stomach and head, because of her parents’ divorce.
How can we protect our children from the negative effects of divorce? Do we hide it from them? Are we supposed to tell them what is happening between us two? Does child abuse on the subject of divorce lead to physical and psychological suffering?

Many times, happy marriage end in divorce, the thread and love end and the relationship gradually deteriorates, and we found yesterday’s couples, breaking their relationship today. However, the premarital status will not be regained after the separation despite the legal divorce. In fact, the marital status will forever be stigmatized on the forehead of the ex- husband / wife, even if it lasted for a day only. Even in the dating game, you will not be single again after your marriage has ended, you are divorced or separated or widowed, but you will not be single.
Based on the above, we are trying to facilitate the process of overcoming a divorce to those who have “fruits of love” and by that we mean children. If separation proves to be primordial, try to mitigate the damage on your ex- partners, the environment surrounding you and especially your children.

After the parents’ separation, the child will need a stage to adapt, so that he/she can accept the change. Additionally he/she will have this constant sad feeling every time they leave their parents’ house, and as he can feel that he/she is the reason of the conflict, it can generate in him/her a feeling of guilt, and that they do not deserve love, as they might have this growing fear of being left behind.

When problems and conflicts begin between the spouses, the parents might think that they are hiding them from the children, but their children feel the absence of harmony. Protecting each child from the negative effects of life which in this case it is divorce, can begin from the development of independence and self-confidence so that the child would become flexible, and it will be easier for him/her to accept emergency events in life, and have a positive reaction.

In order for the child to accept his/her parents’ separation, here is some advice on how to deal with the new situation:

– As parents, you have to have mutual cooperation and have to both agree on how to tell your child if you have problems and points of disagreement. Inform the child in advance that you are planning on separating, and reassure him that you will continue to love him and that he is not the cause of the separation.
– Keep the daily routine in the child’s life, if possible, such as home, school and transportation, in addition to recreational and sports activities, and communication with the family of both the father and mother, as this will contribute to the child’s feeling of stability and security.
– Do not get distracted by divorce transactions and court sessions and neglect the child.
– Do not call the other parent “bad”, or throw at him/her any accusation, or threaten him/her in front of the child.
– Do not try to solve your problems in front of the child.
– Do not use the child to know the movements of your ex-partner let alone their state and behavior.
– Do not fight over the custody of the child, which can make him/her lose the feeling of calmness, stability and security.
– Do not share the negative reasons for the divorce with your child.
– Do not compensate for the lack of your presence with money.
– Assure the child that the divorce will not affect both of your love for him/her and that you will always be there whenever he/she needs you.
– Be present with him/her on special occasions and holidays, especially those related to children and school.

How does a child react when he/she acknowledges the separation from his/her parents?

The family member reloads the divorce, since they have to reconstitute the family again, but if the child understands and is aware of the new reality, it alleviates the psychological and emotional trauma that he/she may suffer from. The child will be sad of course, but we have to protect him/her from reaching the stage of anger, anxiety and self-closure and depression, which can make him/her act as younger than his/her actual age: They may urinate in bed at night, and show aggressiveness and nervousness in their reactions. It is necessary to allow and encourage them to express themselves orally while we listening to them, and encourage them to play, draw, sing and dance. In addition, a child may feel guilty for the separation of his/her parents, and begins to offer concessions, and believes that the new situation occurred due to his/her disorganization or because they were not obedient in something, so it is necessary to emphasize that they are not the reason.

The child may be surprised and feel alienated after separation from parents, so give examples of other divorce cases of someone he/she knows in your community and how the child in this family lives happily and comfortably. Pediatric migraine is one of the physical symptoms of parental divorce. Children may also suffer from sleep and appetite disturbances, as they may also suffer from obesity or severe weight loss.

Divorced parents should approach psychologists to help them overcome this stage with minimal losses, and this can maybe help them reconcile. And consequently, the children of couples who are separating also need psychological monitoring to be able to overcome this stage in a better physical and psychological condition.

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