Please welcome guest author and coach, Lisa J Peck, as she shares with us tips on Common Behavior of Children After Divorce.
Common Behavior 1: Most children want a relationship with both parents after a divorce.
In fact, researchers have found that children who maintain close and regular contact with both parents after a divorce do better academically and socially and are less likely to get involved in delinquent activity. Therefore, if you criticize your ex-spouse, you will be hurting your child. If you succeed at alienating your child from your ex-spouse, you are not helping your cause. As your children mature they will struggle in their own relationships. What have they learned—to be negative, critical, and unforgiving.
Common Behavior 2: Each child will experience the divorce in his or her unique way.
Children of the same family will often interpret the divorce and how it impacts them in completely separate ways. One reason is that each child is at a different developmental stage.
A young toddler doesn’t understand what a teenager does. Furthermore, toddlers, unlike teenagers, have not been exposed to all of the problems their parents have had over the years. The more stress children encounter or challenges they face during the divorce, the more difficult it will be for them to progress developmentally. For example, a teenager who is just starting to date and develop social relations may pull back from dating for fear that relationship failure is inevitable. An alternate possibility is that the teenager will turn to more delinquent behavior, such as sexual promiscuity or drugs and alcohol, to avoid the tension and frustration of their home life.
In a young child, you may see regressive behavior. A child who has been potty trained may start having more accidents. A ten-year-old may act more aggressively at home or school. In many instances, although appropriate behavior has been taught, inappropriate behaviors are common to children who are experiencing stress.
My youngest was at the age to be potty trained when the divorce occurred. I held back from trying to train him, knowing he might regress. I did not think the increased pressure to learn this task would have been good for him as we were going through the transition. Even though some people think that the divorce doesn’t affect the toddler, it does. Babies are sensitive to the stress that goes on around them. Often times they also have to adjust to going from one home to another.
My toddler decided that he wanted to return to being a baby. That was okay. It was his way of coping. I got out a baby cup and filled it with milk. I had him climb in my lap and I hugged him and fed him like a baby. I also put out a blanket and said, “If you’re going to be a baby then you need to stay on a blanket like a baby.” Every time he tried to get off the blanket I’d pick him up and put him back. “No. No. You’re a baby. Babies stay on their blankets.” I continued to treat him like a baby, including putting him to bed early. To my surprise he immediately got into the role, crawling around and saying, “Mama. Mama.” This lasted for two days before he decided he wanted to be a big boy again. We had no more regression after that.
From all the change that the divorce brought, he felt afraid and vulnerable and wanted to return to the time when he felt safe. Since I allowed him to do that and let him stay there as long as necessary, he eventually worked the fear out of his system and felt secure enough to encounter life again.I believe the divorce was harder on the older children. I had many more challenges and issues to work out with them. Being an adult when my parents divorced, I know from firsthand experience that adult children can take the divorce even harder than children at younger ages.
I read research that boys are quieter than girls about their hurt. Many boys’ misbehavior surface two or three years after the divorce, leaving parents surprised and wondering what happened. It is extremely important if you have sons to get them in touch with their feelings and help them deal with this upheaval to avoid future problems. I worked hard with my oldest son, nine at the time, who struggled silently with the divorce. He needed counseling. That was by far the best thing I ever did for our bond with each other. He was angry with me at the time of the divorce and blamed me for everything. He wouldn’t even talk to me. The therapist and I worked hard with him on his feelings. Now we cherish a tender relationship. We are good friends. He thinks I’m a mind reader because I helped him identify his feelings and normalized them.
When he showed signs of stress, we made a habit of meeting on the couch in my bedroom where he would curl up on my lap (he still does this even though he is bigger than me!) and talk. He resisted at first. Then his walls crumbled and he opened up. The human contact got through to him. I’m grateful I took the time to help him through those tough months. He was a quiet child, and I could easily have brushed aside his emotional needs until I was doing better myself.
One of my other children viewed me as weak since she saw her father hit me. She decided she wasn’t going to be the weak one. She took the anger and power position. I figured out, that in order to be a good mom to her, I needed to let her know I was strong enough to handle whatever she tried. I could keep her safe. She tested the boundaries a lot. Once she discovered that I was not going away, and after doing some weightlifting so I was the stronger of the two of us, she settled down. I needed to be consistent, loving her and sending her value as I set the boundaries. I did not always succeed—she would be the first to tell you that. But I continued to try. We have a much more workable relationship, and she no longer thinks Mom is a pushover. We have even enjoyed some honest talks about how the divorce affected her. I let all my children know that I’m truly sorry that they had to endure so much pain. I never wished this on them. They are strong individuals, and they can take this situation and use it to benefit their lives in the future. It is exciting to me that they are discovering how strong they are by making it through this difficult time in their lives.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Being a mother of 8, author of 22 books, former radio show host, Lisa J Peck helps people live a more happy, holistic, and healthy lifestyle on their own terms. Through coaching, speaking, and facilitating mastermind groups, Lisa aids people in determining what they most want in their life and business. She gives them strategies and tools to step it up in their life in the way that works for their unique personality to move them through the challenges and have them living the life they really want.