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On many occasions, separation from marriage is a necessary evil for the family. But, regardless of the age of the child and the type of relationship the couple had, unfortunately, the parents' divorce negatively affects children. The disintegration of their family unit worries them, the world in which they lived is broken and, with the separation, they move to another scenario where they no longer feel safe and do not know.
Each child reacts in a different way. There is no same pattern for children's reaction, depending solely on age. There are nine-year-olds who respond more maturely to this situation than some adolescents. On the other hand, the feeling of bewildermentwhen they found out because they are used to seeing their parents always together and refuse to admit that this situation is changed.
The younger the child, the more difficult it is to understand what is going on at home. Faced with the separation of their parents, many children change their behavior, are rebellious and become depressed. This situation can be reflected negatively in school, in their contact with the rest of the family, and in their social life.
Older children may try to find other inappropriate or beneficial outlets for their conflicts.
- Divorce in pregnancy. If the separation takes place during pregnancy, the child is likely to be affected by the mother's mood and may therefore be born with a low weight. When the baby is only a few months old, the mother's mood will also be a great influence on him and he may be affected by a delay in cognitive or emotional development.
- Divorce with children between one and three years old. Children under 3 years of age tend to be more irritable and fearful. It is possible that they resort to crying easily and that they suffer regression in their development, that is, that they return to some behavior patterns that have already been overcome, such as wetting the bed or talking again as when they were younger. The child is also likely to become shy, require much more attention, and have nightmares.
- Divorce with children between 3 to 6 years. The child is likely to think that it is his fault, and he will react in opposite ways: either he becomes very obedient (thinking that if he is good the father will return) or he is also much more aggressive or rebellious than his character would have expected. At this age, they frequently express fear of being abandoned; some suffer from so-called separation anxiety disorder, which manifests itself with withdrawal symptoms, decreased concentration, or even denial of school attendance.
- Divorce with children up to 6 years old. 5-year-old children, apart from the fear of being abandoned, which they may manifest along with a deep sense of loss and sadness, feel that they must decide between their parents. They live the situation with feelings of rejection and disappointment at the "abandonment." Their school performance tends to decline. In some cases, if they do not know how to express what they feel, they turn their sadness into a certain aggressiveness. They can suffer from sleep disorders, eating disorders and adopt regressive behaviors.
- Divorce with children between 6 and 9 years old. Feelings of rejection, reconciliation fantasies, and loyalty problems appear. Children may experience anger, sadness, and longing for the parent who has left. When the spouses have had serious conflicts, the children can live a fight of affection for their parents. Other times, they are neglected materially, forcing them to prepare food, watch over younger siblings, and assume responsibilities too heavy for their age.
- Divorce with children between 9 and 12 years old. Children often express feelings of shame about their parents' behavior, including anger or rage towards the one who made the decision to separate. A very typical behavior is to reproach their parents for not having solved their marital problems. In addition, there are attempts to reconcile their parents and psychosomatic problems (headaches, stomach ...)
- Divorce with teenage children. Their self-esteem is affected and they can develop habits of a higher age such as smoking, drinking or having greater independence. From 13 to 18 years old, the separation of the parents will cause ethical problems, and will therefore cause strong conflicts between the need to love the father and the mother, and the disapproval of their behavior. Generally, the most common reactions at this stage are: on the one hand, an accelerated maturity, that is, the adolescent adopts the role of the absent parent, accepting their responsibilities; and on the other, an antisocial behavior: does not abide or accept the rules, disobeys, consumes alcohol, drugs ...
Report prepared and presented by KIDETZA Federation of Euskadi of Separated Mothers and Parents (Xabier Moñux * Psychologist, Family Therapist, and Coordinator of the KIDETZA P.E.F. of Donostia) (Maribel Elustondo * Psychopedagogue and Family Therapist of the P.E.F.
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