How Do Young Children and Adolescents Handle Their Parents’ Divorce?
Whether heated debates over parenting time or disagreements about marital debts add fuel to an already stressful home environment, children caught in the middle of a divorce have plenty to contend with. Even if divorcing parents attempt to protect their children from conflict, the divorce process can be emotionally turbulent for them. Experts tell us that parental divorce has a significant impact on children of all ages, although younger children tend to process and react to the separation differently than older adolescents. These variations in behavioral changes can be alarming for parents, who themselves are feeling the emotional effects of such a big life change.
Behavioral Changes to Expect from Your Teen or Little One
As a concerned parent undergoing a divorce, it helps to identify the types of behavioral changes you can expect from your adolescent or younger child and to be aware that each child’s response may differ greatly. This is normal, as it typically reflects the child’s perspective on the split. That point of view shapes his or her response and his or her attitude about the situation. Here are a few examples of what to expect and how reactions can differ from one age group to the next:
Defiance - Teens tend to react against their parents in the face of divorce. As adolescents, they are already working to develop independence, hence the common tendency to distance themselves and turn to friends for support instead of to Mom or Dad. This desire for self-sufficiency often becomes amplified during divorce, sometimes resulting in rebellion and the belief that if parents do not care about them, then they must look after themselves.
Regressive behavior - Younger children, such as those between the ages of 6 and 12, may act regressively, in contrast to aggressive teen behavior. Since they are already dependent on their parents for love, safety, comfort, and support, that dependency can become intensified, can cause them to become more needy and anxious. Additionally, this age group tends to take longer to adjust to divorce than teenagers. Younger children may imagine that their parents will get back together, and they may even feel they are responsible for both the split and potential reconciliation. Adolescents tend to accept the reality of their parents’ separation sooner and, at times, with greater ease.
Acting out in school - Teens and young children alike will likely display their feelings about the separation at school. It is not uncommon for younger children to act more disruptive or disobedient in the classroom. Teens may withdraw, show signs of aggression, or rebel against authority figures. Teachers may observe preteens “zoning out” instead of completing schoolwork or participating in class discussions.
Contact a DuPage County Family Law Attorney
At the Andrew Cores Family Law Group, we understand that divorce can be difficult for the whole family. Our attorneys can help you address the conflicts that may be adding stress to your divorce experience so that you and your children can focus on processing, healing, and moving forward with the next chapter in your lives. Contact our qualified Wheaton, IL divorce lawyers today at 630-871-1002 to schedule a free consultation.