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Divorce And Children Essay, Research Paper

It seems that more and more marriages are falling apart everyday. Divorce rates

seen to be climbing astronomically. In so many of these divorces there are

children to be considered. What is best for the child? Who will get custody?

Will the child be scarred for life? It?s really hard to say. The overall

effects on our children vary according to the factors involved. I am going to

attempt to discuss a few of the problems that can occur with children of

divorced families and what parents can do to ease the transition. I will limit

this discussion to infantile age thru early elementary aged children. Let?s

start with understanding the parents role concerning being together or being

apart. Obviously, two parents can provide children with far more guidance,

sustenance, and protection than one, and are more likely to prevent the kinds of

psychological disturbance that may result from deprivations of these necessities

…When one parent is temporarily absent from the intact home, it is likely that

the other will be available to ratify the child?s needs in a loving way. This

is not so readily the situation in the divorced home. ( Gardner, 1977). In this

statement he illustrates the importance of having both parents together. This

can be emphasized further with a statement from Buchanan, Maccoby, and Dornbusch

(1996). Children?s parents are their anchors. Parents provide the structure

for children?s daily lives, and even when parents are not functioning very

well, children depend on them for a sense of security that enables them to cope

with their developmental tasks. When one parent leaves the home, the child

realizes a shattering possibility; parents are not always there. It is not hard

to realize that divorce can have a devastating effect on children. Let?s brake

it down by age groups; infants, toddlers, and so on. DeBorg (1997) states that

infants ?do not understand conflict, but may react to changes in parents

energy level and mood.? She goes on to list possible reactions like ?loss of

appetite; upset stomach – may spit up more; more fretful or anxious.? She says

that ?parents should keep their normal routines,? and ?stay calm in front

of the child.? Toddlers ?understand that a parent has moved away, but

doesn?t understand why.? I know that my son was very confused. He was only

two when my wife and I separated. He seemed to display allot of anger and

insecurity. DeBorg says that a toddlers reactions could include ?more crying,

clinging; problems sleeping; regression to infant behaviors; and worry when

parent is out of sight.? My son, his name is Cody, definitely fits this

profile. He cried constantly. It seemed that nothing would calm him down. If you

got him to go to sleep, good luck keeping him there. As far as infant behaviors

go, his biggest problems were wanting to be rocked like when he was younger and

trying to go back to the bottle. DeBorg say to ?allow some return to infantile

behaviors, but set clear limits.? Easier said than done I can assure you.

Preschoolers ?don?t understand what separation or divorce means,? they

?realize one parent is not as active in his or her life? (DeBorg, 1997).

Their reactions could include ?pleasant and unpleasant fantasies; feeling

uncertain about the future; feeling responsible; and they may hold their anger

inside.? Deborg?s first strategy listed for parents is to ?encourage the

child to talk.? This makes sense if you are concerned with straitening out

these issues of anger and feeling responsible. It seems to be the only way to

really understand your child?s problems. Gardner (1977, p. 42) talks of

something called the ?oedipal phase.? He explains that this occurs between

ages three and five. ?This is the period… when a child develops a strong

possessive attachment to the opposite-sexed parent.? Gardner says that ?at

times the attraction can take on mildly sexual overtones toward the

opposite-sexed parent…?, but ?the sexual desires are generally not for

intercourse, the child being too young to appreciate that act.? He explains

that ?if a boy begins sleeping in Mother?s bed thoughout the night, an a

continual basis, the likelihood that oedipal problems will arise is great…

this holds true for a father and daughter when they are the ones who remain

together following the separation?(p. 91). Learning of this has raised my

concerns for my son. His mother lets him sleep with her every night, and she

believes nothing is wrong with the arrangement. This is a factor I will deal

with on my own, as soon as I figure out what to do. Continuing on to early

elementary age, children?s understanding becomes more apparent. DeBorg (1997)

says that children ?begin to understand what divorce is,? and ?understand

that her or his parents won?t live together anymore and that they may not love

each other as before.? Reactions, as she describes, could include feelings of

deception and a sense of loss. Children have ?hopes that parents will get back

together,? and ?feel rejected by the parent who left.? Children of this

age can have symptoms of illness like ?loss of appetite, sleep problems,

diarrhea? and may ?complain of headaches or stomach aches.? DeBorg does

not list any ways of curving these symptoms of illness, however she does list

some strategies for helping these children adjust. She writes, ?encourage the

child to talk about how he or she feels; answer all questions about changes…;

and reassure the child.? From my standpoint, these ideas hold true regardless

of the situation. You should always encourage your children to talk about there

feelings and always take them seriously. A word of advice: Children can adjust

to divorce. It is years of subsequent fighting between their parents, or an

inappropriate child custody plan that can take a terrible toll? (Olsen, 1998).

So if you want to help your children succeed, then help them adjust to your

divorce together; mom and dad. Never let them feel that they cannot have a

relationship with the other parent if at all possible.

Gardner, R. A. (1977). The Parents Book About Divorce. Garden City, NY:

Doubleday & Company, Inc. Buchanan, C. M., Maccoby, E. E., & Dornbusch,

S. M. (1996). Adolescents After Divorce. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University

Press. DeBorg, K. (1997). Focus on Kids: The Effects of Divorce On Children.

http://www.nncc.org/child.dev/effectsdivorce.html Olsen, P. (1998). Child

Custody Savvy. http://www.savvypsych.com/

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