Telling your children you're getting divorced is never an easy conversation. And as mothers, we naturally worry about how they will take the news; we can't help but think things like "will they hate me", or worse, "will they blame me."
No matter how old they are, your children need time to adjust to divorce, and their reactions to their parents divorcing will vary greatly depending on the age they actually are. In fact, research shows that in general, their reactions to divorce are pretty consistant universally depending on their developmental stages.
With that, we've compiled a quick overview of the typical reactions you can expect from the various ages of children to help better prepare you as you navigate your way through divorce as a single mother:
Age 0 to 2 years:
While babies can't put feelings into words, they still absorb the stress of their surroundings. There can be changes in eating or sleeping habits, though some babies have delayed reactions. Until about 18 months, babies don't really form visual images to store in their memory banks. Non-custodial parents should try to see their infant at least twice a week.
Age 3 to 5 years:
Kids might be more cranky than usual and throw tantrums. They may regress. Try to reassure them with lots of affection and attention. Kids at this stage are also highly imaginative, so don't assume everything they say is true. Periodic shorter visits are critical for non-custodial parents.
Age 6 to 8 years:
Children at this age are often very affected by the experience of divorce and will try to "replace" the absent parent by taking on his or her mannerisms. Try to reassure them that they are not responsible for the divorce and that both parents love them. Don't keep them in the dark; tell them the truth.
Age 9 to 12 years:
At this age, kids don't tend to talk about their feelings and can often appear happy even if they're depressed. They often express their anger indirectly, complaining about rules and discipline. Loyalty conflicts are rife at this stage; kids want to please both parents and fear they might upset one, by showing more affection for and commitment to the other. Try not to make your kid your confidant; it's not appropriate.
Age 13 to 17 years:
Teenagers often act out and get angry; they present a jumble of emotions and contradictions. They also idealize male-female relationships. The bottom line: They need to understand why you're divorcing but avoid talking about your spouse's faults or assigning blame.
The Effects of Divorce on Adult Children, an exclusive series of articles written by children of divorce
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