You’re going through a divorce, and you thought you anticipated all the problems you would likely face — but your children’s reactions are puzzling. Given the difficulties in your household before the split and knowing how common divorce is these days, you did not expect their reactions to be so negative.
What gives? You cannot expect children to express their feelings in the same way an adult might, and all children will have different emotions. In many cases, children do not even understand their own feelings when their parents are going through a divorce, so they cannot exactly articulate them. Instead, you’re likely to see one of three reactions:
- Avoidance: Some children shut down to avoid feeling anything. Children who are avoiding their emotional reaction to their parent’s split may continue on as if nothing at all was wrong, upsetting or changing. Most of the time, children who do this are actually trying to avoid imposing a burden on their parents. They suppress their emotions because they do not want their parents to feel guilty.
- Aggression: Some children mimic what they see. You may (unfortunately) hear your spouse’s angry words echoed out of your child’s mouth or witness your child fly into a rage instead of trying to handle conflicts peacefully.
- Confrontation: This may not be pleasant, but it’s probably the healthiest way for children to handle their fear, sadness and anger over their parents’ split. Confrontation indicates that a child is actively trying to sort out his or her feelings.
Regardless of the reaction your child is having, remember that it often takes time (and maybe counseling) for adjustments to happen. Make sure that you address any important concerns regarding the children in your parenting plan so that you can make the process as smooth as possible.