When you tell your children they may have lots of questions about what’s going to happen. A child’s world is different from that of an adult, and their questions may surprise you, ranging from anything to “will I have to change school” to “can I have a dog then if I live with mummy.”
They may expect an answer straight away but if you don’t know the answer there and then, be honest and say so, and explain that as soon as you do know, you will tell them.
What to Expect From Your Children
While many children share some common reactions to their parent’s divorce, there are different patterns of behaviours that may occur in different age groups. Below are some of the behaviours that may occur at different stages in children’s lives.
- The early years – age 0-5
It can be difficult to identify reactions shown by very young children, especially before they are able to talk. However, you may find they become more clingy with their main carer and appear restless and unsettled. There may be thumb-sucking, bed-wetting and tantrums. Pre-school aged children may regress into ‘baby talk,’ demand their bottle back long after they have been weaned or become more attached to certain objects or soft toys.
- Young people aged 5-12
Home and family are still the main focus of this age group and the breakdown of family life can be very confusing. Children of this age often have enough understanding to realise that their parent’s divorce is a threat to their security but may lack the ability to understand why it’s happening. This can lead to symptoms of crying, bed-wetting, refusal to eat or go to bed, disruptive behaviour at school, a refusal to be left at school or with anyone else and anxieties about their day-to-day lives.
Teenage years are a time for young people to begin to assert their independence and show the world that they are starting to live as people in their own right. This often displays itself in irrational behaviour designed to push boundaries and break rules. For this reason, it can be tricky to identify a teenager’s reaction to a divorce. However, you know your own children better than anyone and can therefore spot behaviour which is more out of the ordinary. Teenage reactions to family break up can involve staying out later than normal, avoiding the family home, staying up in their room and refusing to talk, experimenting with drugs, alcohol and sexual relationships.