Your children's age plays a big part in how they will react to news about your Massachusetts divorce as well as how they will adapt to the circumstances. No two children will respond in the same way, even if they are close in age, but professionals have found that certain emotions tend to be more prevalent at certain age groups.
Of course, divorce is not a time to compare your child with others to determine how appropriate their behavior seems to be. Your child's unique personality will play a big part in his or her response. However, there are certain tendencies that are more common at various ages. Wise parents learn what they can expect and so are not caught unprepared when their children act out or react negatively to the challenges of divorce.
Experts tell parents that children under the age of nine tend to respond to hurtful situations with sadness, but that's not necessarily the case for older children.
Anger and resentment are much more prevalent after age nine. Anger gives a child experiencing divorce a sense of control. Since it is a more assertive response than crying to mommy and children between nine and twelve see anger as a grown-up way of handling their emotions.
At this stage, kids usually also try to detach themselves from the family and may appear ambivalent about the divorce. Don't be fooled. Both the anger and seeming lack of interest are defense mechanisms.
The pre-teen is at an awkward state of maturity which is beyond that of a little child, but not at the level of a teen. Their ability to understand emotions is still rather limited and consequently, their behavior can seem distant and unfeeling. When you talk about divorce to your nine to twelve year old don't be surprised if they ...
- See it in strict black-and-white terms and want to lay blame squarely on one of their parents.
- View the divorce as a rejection of them personally.
- Push you to treat them like an "adult," asking for detailed information about the failure of the relationship.
As with all children, pre-teens need to be reminded that you love them, that you will always still be their parents, that they will be safe and cared for and that you are working out the details so that everything will be okay.
When they ask why you are getting a divorce, you don't need to go into great depth. Talk about behaviors without blame or accusation.
"We didn't know how to stop arguing and walk away from a fight," is the type of language that family therapists suggest. If you can be honest with yourself and your children, here's another suggested way to frame your answer:
"We didn't listen to each other enough. You know how sometimes you want to say something so much you don't even hear what the other person is saying? That's how your mother/father and I got to be. We cared more about what we wanted to say and not enough about what the other person was saying."
When it comes to questions about the future, therapists suggest an answer that reminds your children that both Mom and Dad still want to be in their lives as much as possible because we both still love you. Then, spell out custody and parenting plan arrangements as clearly and in as much detail as you can.
Should you be in the midst of a divorce or contemplating divorce, contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar at 978-844-4095 to schedule a FREE one hour no obligation consultation.