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Divorce and Children

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    It seems that more and more marriages are falling apart everyday. Divorce

    rates seen to be climbing astronomically. In so many of these divorces there are

    children to be considered. What is best for the child? Who will get custody? Will

    the child be scarred for life? It’s really hard to say. The overall effects on our

    children vary according to the factors involved. I am going to attempt to discuss a

    few of the problems that can occur with children of divorced families and what

    parents can do to ease the transition. I will limit this discussion to infantile age thru

    Let’s start with understanding the parents role concerning being together or

    Obviously, two parents can provide children with far more guidance,

    sustenance, and protection than one, and are more likely to prevent

    the kinds of psychological disturbance that may result from

    deprivations of these necessities …When one parent is temporarily

    absent from the intact home, it is likely that the other will be available

    to ratify the child’s needs in a loving way. This is not so readily the

    situation in the divorced home. ( Gardner, 1977).

    In this statement he illustrates the importance of having both parents together. This

    can be emphasized further with a statement from Buchanan, Maccoby, and

    Children’s parents are their anchors. Parents provide the

    structure for children’s daily lives, and even when parents are not

    functioning very well, children depend on them for a sense of

    security that enables them to cope with their developmental tasks.

    When one parent leaves the home, the child realizes a shattering

    possibility; parents are not always there.

    It is not hard to realize that divorce can have a devastating effect on children.

    Let’s brake it down by age groups; infants, toddlers, and so on. DeBorg

    (1997) states that infants “do not understand conflict, but may react to changes in

    parents energy level and mood.” She goes on to list possible reactions like “loss of

    appetite; upset stomach – may spit up more; more fretful or anxious.” She says that

    “parents should keep their normal routines,” and “stay calm in front of the child.”

    Toddlers “understand that a parent has moved away, but doesn’t understand

    why.” I know that my son was very confused. He was only two when my wife and I

    separated. He seemed to display allot of anger and insecurity. DeBorg says that a

    toddlers reactions could include “more crying, clinging; problems sleeping;

    regression to infant behaviors; and worry when parent is out of sight.” My son, his

    name is Cody, definitely fits this profile. He cried constantly. It seemed that

    nothing would calm him down. If you got him to go to sleep, good luck keeping him

    there. As far as infant behaviors go, his biggest problems were wanting to be rocked

    like when he was younger and trying to go back to the bottle. DeBorg say to “allow

    some return to infantile behaviors, but set clear limits.” Easier said than done I can

    Preschoolers “don’t understand what separation or divorce means,” they

    “realize one parent is not as active in his or her life” (DeBorg, 1997). Their

    reactions could include “pleasant and unpleasant fantasies; feeling uncertain about

    the future; feeling responsible; and they may hold their anger inside.” Deborg’s first

    strategy listed for parents is to “encourage the child to talk.” This makes sense if

    you are concerned with straitening out these issues of anger and feeling responsible.

    It seems to be the only way to really understand your child’s problems.

    Gardner (1977, p. 42) talks of something called the “oedipal phase.” He

    explains that this occurs between ages three and five. “This is the period… when a

    child develops a strong possessive attachment to the opposite-sexed parent.”

    Gardner says that “at times the attraction can take on mildly sexual overtones toward

    the opposite-sexed parent…”, but “the sexual desires are generally not for

    intercourse, the child being too young to appreciate that act.” He explains that “if a

    boy begins sleeping in Mother’s bed thoughout the night, an a continual basis, the

    likelihood that oedipal problems will arise is great… this holds true for a father and

    daughter when they are the ones who remain together following the separation”(p.

    91). Learning of this has raised my concerns for my son. His mother lets him sleep

    with her every night, and she believes nothing is wrong with the arrangement. This

    is a factor I will deal with on my own, as soon as I figure out what to do.

    Continuing on to early elementary age, children’s understanding becomes

    more apparent. DeBorg (1997) says that children “begin to understand what divorce

    is,” and “understand that her or his parents won’t live together anymore and that

    they may not love each other as before.” Reactions, as she describes, could include

    feelings of deception and a sense of loss. Children have “hopes that parents will get

    back together,” and “feel rejected by the parent who left.” Children of this age can

    have symptoms of illness like “loss of appetite, sleep problems, diarrhea” and may

    “complain of headaches or stomach aches.” DeBorg does not list any ways of

    curving these symptoms of illness, however she does list some strategies for helping

    these children adjust. She writes, “encourage the child to talk about how he or she

    feels; answer all questions about changes…; and reassure the child.” From my

    standpoint, these ideas hold true regardless of the situation. You should always

    encourage your children to talk about there feelings and always take them seriously.

    Children can adjust to divorce. It is years of subsequent

    fighting between their parents, or an inappropriate child custody plan

    that can take a terrible toll” (Olsen, 1998).

    So if you want to help your children succeed, then help them adjust to your divorce

    together; mom and dad. Never let them feel that they cannot have a relationship

    with the other parent if at all possible.

    Gardner, R. A. (1977). The Parents Book About Divorce. Garden City, NY:
    Doubleday & Company, Inc.

    Buchanan, C. M., Maccoby, E. E., & Dornbusch, S. M. (1996). Adolescents
    After Divorce. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    DeBorg, K. (1997). Focus on Kids: The Effects of Divorce On Children.
    Olsen, P. (1998). Child Custody Savvy.

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