Divorce is the legal dissolution of marriage. Marriage is not always finalized in a court of law. Atleast, not in this part of the world. For that reason, separation and divorce will be used interchangeably in this article.
Separation is never easy. Not for the parents or their children. Family members and friends are caught in this web too.
Divorce introduces a massive change into the life of a boy or girl no matter what the age is. Witnessing loss of love between parents, having parents break their marriage commitment, adjusting to going back and forth between two different homes, and the daily absence of one parent while living with the other, all create a challenging new family circumstance to live in.
BEFORE THE DIVORCE :
The child’s world is a dependent one, closely connected to parents who are favored companions, heavily reliant on parental care, with family being the major locus of his/her social life.
AFTER THE DIVORCE :
The child’s world is an independent one, more separated and distant from parents, more self-sufficient, where friends have become favored companions, and where the major locus of one’s social life now extends outside of family into a larger world of life experience.
So much is different, new unpredictable, and unknown that life becomes filled with scary questions.
“What is going to happen to next?” “Who will take care of me?”
“If my parents can lose love for each other, can they lose love for me?”
It creates unfamiliarity, instability, and insecurity, never being able to be with one parent without having to be apart from the other.
If the parents are dramatic, the child is accused of spending more time with the father more than the mother and vice – versa.
Each time the child sees friends and their parents together, it reminds him/her of home…broken home…It tears him/her apart.
Some separated parents are fond of referring the child to the other parent for money and other needs. This is terribly frightening. Moreover, when the child goes to the other parent for the money, he/she is referred back to the one who did the first referral. It’s exhausting.
The child grows up to the age of marriage and the prospective in-laws are very concerned about the family situation. They think the child will turn out like the parents. Sighs. Some people are like that.
Convincing a child of the permanence of divorce can be hard when his/her intense longing fantasizes that somehow, mom and dad will be living back together again someday. He/she relies on wishful thinking to help allay the pain of loss, holding onto hope for the parents’ reunion.
There can be separation anxieties, crying in bed, depression, clinging, whining, tantrums, temporary loss of established self-care skills, etc.
The more independent-minded child tends to deal more aggressively with divorce; often reacting in a mad, rebellious way, more resolved to disregard family discipline and take care of his/herself since parents have failed to keep commitments to family that were originally made.
This could be positive or negative. The child could be determined to excel in studies in order to make a good living. Or indulge in prostitution, drugs, robbery, etc.
Children with divorced parents are likely to be very emotional. The slightest doubt you give them, they are scared you’ll leave them. This puts a strain on their relationships.
Some separated parents fight over which school the child will go to and who will finance it, who takes custody of the child, etc. They do this trying to get back at each other. But, it’s the child that suffers. He/she is put in the middle and sometimes even pushed to choose between both parents.
Separated parents should make it a priority to restore their child’s trust in security, familiarity, and dependency. That is, providing continual reassurance that the parents are as lovingly connected to the child as ever, and are committed to making this new family arrangement work. Atleast, since the old one didn’t.