Divorce will be a watershed moment in your child's life no matter how amicable it is.
I often say, that the divorce is in itself important, but what is even more important is how it's handled as this can end up being the primary trauma.
During this time you will experience a whole range of emotions ranging from bouts of triumph to downright depression and anything in between.
If we as adults find it so hard and so painful an experience, let's think of our little ones and try and see it from their perspective.
To be honest, this is no easy task when you're angry and full of resentment, but by constantly doing so we might begin to comprehend just how heavy a process it is for them too and to make it even harder on them, they have neither the language nor vocabulary to help them express what's going on for them.
And this right there, this inability to express themselves and understand what it is that is going on is what can bring on changes in your child among other things.
So when should you be concerned about how your child is coping with divorce. When should you consider getting help?
• Increase in anger related behaviour. One client divorced from her husband when their daughter was nine. The change in her behaviour was gradual but steady. By the time she was 11 years old, it had escalated to physical and verbal abuse of her mother. If you see any changes in your child in this way, do something as soon as possible.
• When there is regression i.e. your child is now exhibiting behaviour that she did or had when they were younger. This may include the type of foods that they eat, bed-wetting and manner of speaking in the case of younger children.
• Where your child seems or appears withdrawn i.e when he shows less interest in activities that they used to enjoy or/and reluctant to meet and play with others or spend time with family members.. Very common in teenagers. Trick is knowing if this change is down to their current and normal stage of development or if this is due to the divorce itself. One way to verify this is checking if this change is accompanied by any other changes e.g. anger related behaviour.
• When you begin getting calls from school regarding your child's behaviour and performance. Has her level of concentration declined, is he getting more in trouble at school. Don't forget to let the school know what is going on.
• If their eating habits have changed in a way that is not familiar to either of you. We know that children's appetites are always changing but if you notice that your child is either eating a lot more or a lot less than they usually do, then they might need more support in dealing with the changes within the family.
• The same applies to sleeping - if they are sleeping more than usual or are reluctant to get out of bed or much less than they used to then you might consider seeking help for them.
Like I said, you know your child best and only you can tell if your child's habits have changed enough to cause you concern. If you are not sure then do ask someone who knows your child almost as well as you do including teachers, family and friends.
Using the old saying; a stitch in time saves nine. If your child is hurting, take care of them now.