Children of separated parents – 08/15/2013

A man and a woman, married and with children, form two types of relationships: on the one hand, they are a conjugal couple and, on the other, a parental couple. The moment they decide to separate, for whatever reason, they terminate their conjugal relationship, but they continue to be part of the parental relationship, a function that they will have to continue exercising jointly for the rest of their lives.
For this reason, it is important that both parents are aware of this new circumstance: both will have to continue to worry about the education and care of their children together!
The economic part and the visitation regimes are usually agreed in one way or another, however, the most emotional part can be slightly in the background for a while. You have to be very careful with your children’s feelings on these occasions, because it is precisely at the beginning of the new situation when they feel most disoriented and confused.
  • First of all, parents should have a conversation with their children to explain the new situation and the changes it is going to bring about. The main concerns of children of separated parents, especially if they are young, tend to focus on feelings of guilt about the separation of parents, uncertainty about the new situation, fear of being abandoned or unloved, etc. For this reason, it is important to emphasize that they are not guilty or responsible for the separation and that both parents will continue to love and care for them.
  • As far as possible, it would be advisable to maintain the routine of the children, that is, to avoid a change of address, city, school, friends, etc. With the new family situation they have more than enough.
  • Parents should be patient with themselves and their children’s behavior. All family members will need a period of adaptation to the new circumstances. Do not pretend that everyone’s life is perfect as if nothing had happened.
  • The educational style of the parents will be the same. It is not advisable to be more permissive with your children to compensate them for the suffering they may be experiencing. Nor is it advisable that the parent who sees him less allows him more privileges when he is with him. The rules should remain the same in the home of both parents.
  • It is important that parents do not make the frequent mistake of converting the child into a bargaining chip, that is, as a general rule the relationship between both parents after the divorce is usually quite deteriorated and, the more or the less, they try to harm each other each other. Sometimes they use their children to achieve this purpose, for example, not letting them go with the non-custodial parent, trying to turn them against the other at the slightest opportunity, using them to send messages to the other, etc. This causes a lot of anxiety in the children and makes them feel prisoners of an affective triangulation from which they do not know how to get out.
  • Try to avoid children witnessing fights and arguments between parents. It is not a question that they live in a bubble, children realize more things than we think, but one thing is that they know that there are differences between their parents and another that they are spectators of them.
  • It is advisable to help children express their painful feelings, never burden them with their own problems, avoid bad comments from the other parent in their presence, answer their questions honestly …
  • In the case of new partners by one or both parents, we must take two things into account:
    1. We are going to need, again, a period of adaptation, in which the parent’s partner and the latter’s children will get to know each other and learn to live together little by little. We cannot accelerate the appearance of affection for each other, it will arise from sharing time and experiences together.
    2. Children should be aware that the partner of one of their parents does not intend to impersonate their real father. It is they, the father or the mother, inevitably, who will have to offer them this valuable information. It will be of great help because it will save your children feelings of betrayal towards the other parent.
Several child psychology studies carried out in the United States and the European Union have shown that the child suffers much more in situations in which the parents are unhappy together than later, when he lives only with one of the two and sees the other in a new environment and even with a new partner.
However, in the short term after divorce, different reactions may appear in the children. Often many of these problems, detected after the separation, were present before the rupture.
The repercussions of the separation on the children, especially if it is preceded by conflicts between the parents, covers a wide spectrum, being able to present: confusion, depression, anxiety, anger, regression, poor school performance, absconding, delinquency, somatic complaints.
These reactions vary greatly according to age, temperament, and the parents’ ability to make this situation easy and bearable; the negative effects of the process are most dramatic during the first two years.
  • Children under the age of three can reflect parental distress, sadness, and concern. They are frequently irritated, tearful, fearful, aggressive and may manifest sleep and gastrointestinal problems as well as a regression in their development.
  • Between 4 and 5 years of age, youngsters often blame themselves for their parents’ unhappiness, fear being abandoned, and present nightmares and fantasies.
  • School-age children can be sad and worried, aggressive and temperamental, with frequent feelings of abandonment. As a consequence of this, their school performance is greatly diminished. To help the child, there should be close communication between parents and teachers, especially the first year after separation. In this way, you can compare the emotional changes that occur both at home and at school and see what you can do about it.
  • Adolescents experience a drop in their self-esteem and can develop premature emotional autonomy, that is, inappropriate sexual behaviors, abuse of substances such as drugs, tobacco or alcohol, depression and even criminal behaviors.
  • At any age, and frequently, children can present psychosomatic symptoms as a response to anger, feelings of loss and abandonment, and other stressors.
These are just some general recommendations. Depending on the characteristics of each family and each separation or divorce process, it will be necessary to work with the children in a more specific way.
It is clear that both the father and the mother will be going through a period of confusion and suffering, but try to protect and help the children in this process as much as possible.
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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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