Children respond to divorce differently depending on their age. Knowing how your child is likely to respond will help you understand better how to help them cope.
Children at this age understand little, if anything, about the divorce itself. They are, however, aware if people in the family are upset.
To help your little one cope:
Preschoolers tend to be very self-centered with a strict sense of right and wrong. When bad things happen, your child may blame herself and think she is being punished. Your child may feel rejected when one parent moves out. Your child may fear that she too will have to move out.
Your child may deny what is happening and believe that parents will get back together. Your child may go back to baby behaviors such as thumbsucking, bedwetting, temper tantrums, or clinging to a blanket. Your child may again be scared of the dark or separation from the parent.
Here are some suggestions that might help your preschooler cope:
By the time your child reaches the early school-age years, she will feel hurt and sad about the divorce, and want parents to get back together. Your child may ignore or show dislike of any person that either parent decides to date. Your child may blame one parent for the break-up. For example, mourn the loss of the father and express anger at the mother.
Children between 6 and 9 years of age often cry, daydream, and have problems with friends and school.
Children between 9 and 12 years of age usually react to divorce with anger. Your child may be very critical of your decision to divorce. She may also resent being asked to help take care of younger siblings or help around the house.
Your child may feel shamed or embarrassed by the divorce. She may worry about family finances and whether she is a drain on parents' resources. She may also worry about how both parents are coping. Your child may mask her true feelings by pretending to be brave or staying very active.
Here are some suggestions that might help your school-age child cope:
One of the most important things you can do for your child during divorce is to work well with the other parent. You are divorcing each other, not your child. Keep these things in mind when working together:
Your child’s healthcare provider can help you and your child cope with the stress of divorce. If your child has these problems after several months, it may be time to see a counselor or therapist:
Get emergency care if your child has ideas of suicide or harming others or harming himself.