Helping Children Cope With Separation & Divorce

Divorce creates many changes in a young person's life. Parents who understand their children's behavior during this difficult time are better equipped to help them adjust and heal. The reactions described below generally appear during the period of separation and may persist for a year or so after the divorce. Certain children may need professional intervention.

ANGER - Angry at both parents, at self and siblings. May be hidden anger or expressed through words and behavior.

DENIAL - Pretending the divorce did not occur, or acting as if they are unaffected, trying to reunite parents.

FEAR - Worrying about their own or other's safety and security, expressing fears about their own welfare and future care, clinging, seeking contact and reassurance.

GUILT - Wishful thinking and many "if only's" asking questions over and over, blaming themselves in overt and hidden ways, unconsciously seeking punishment.

HEALTH - Minor health complaints, appetite and sleep changes, bad dreams, fear of sleeping alone.

INSECURITIES - Refusal to go to school, increased possessiveness of people, pets and things. Testing and seeking limits when switching from one parent's home to the other.

PROTECTION OF PARENTS - Acting like adults, hiding their grief so they can comfort and nurture the parent, uneasy about sharing good information about the other parent.

REGRESSION - Acting "baby-ish" (seeking out baby blanket, bed wetting, babytalk). Relax. This usually turns around quickly with reassurance and acceptance.

SADNESS - A constant or intermittent sadness, loss of interest in favorite activities, crying, is tired or hyperactive, withdrawn.