Elementary and school-aged children have many emotional needs when their parents divorce.
Need To Love and Be Loved
Nothing is more important in the life of a child, especially in the six to eight year age range, than the need to feel that although their parents are leaving each other, they are not leaving the children. Children must be reassured that their parents’ love for them has not changed, and that they are free to love both parents as they did before without fear of betraying one or the other. Whatever each parent may privately think of the other, it is vital that the children not be forced into a battle of loyalties. Saying damaging things about the other parent in an attempt to destroy the child’s affection for that parent can do irreparable harm to the child.
Need To Grieve
Elementary school-aged children are discovering themselves and their own identities, and much of that is derived from their parents and home life. When parents divorce and the home is disrupted, the child experiences profound sorrow and enters into a grieving process marked by tears and deep heartache. The child may cherish hopes that the parents’ marriage will be either saved or restored somehow so that they can be a family once more and may try to bring this about.
Freedom to Grow
Under no circumstances should parents display negative or angry feelings in front of their children if such restraint is at all possible. Further, children should be protected from the details of each parent’s grievances with the other and above all, reassured that they are in no way at fault or responsible for the divorce. Children may exhibit negative or disruptive behavior in school or among their peers, and their academic performance may suffer due to stress or feelings of inadequacy or misplaced guilt. Parents should advise the child’s teacher and guidance counselor of what is happening in the family so that the children can receive the support they need.
The Parenting Plan
When you and your lawyer develop a parenting plan for your children, it is important to remember the developmental stage of the children at this point in their lives. They are expanding their knowledge of who they are, they are making selections of who they do and do not like to associate with, and they are asserting their own self-determination. When scheduling visits between households, attendance at school or school-based activities can provide a degree of stability and predictability that can be comforting to the child.
If you find that the situation between you and your spouse is such that you cannot see each other without being overcome by anger, hurt feelings or other profound emotional issues, a professional counselor may be great help.
Protect Your Children
Divorce is every bit as painful for children as it is for the adults involved. Seek the guidance and assistance of an experienced Richmond/Williamsburg family law attorney today by calling Smith Strong at 804-325-1245 or 757-941-4298. Don’t wait. Call now.