6 to 11 Years (Elementary Schoolers)
From six to eleven years, peer interaction becomes yet another factor in a divorce equation. At this age, a child’s world expands as he or she acquires an ever increasing number of friends whose opinions a child values highly. At this age, children may become a little distant from their parents even under normal conditions. For early elementary school children, the onset of divorce can be a very difficult obstacle to overcome. As the children get older, they normally begin to realize that their parents did not abandon them, but they will only realize this if the parents are open in talking with the children.

Certainly elementary school children feel extreme loss when a divorce occurs, but it is not impossible for the parents to rebuild the child’s sense of security. Children meet new people and they may come home with controversial questions about certain issues concerning the divorce. Typically a child’s only wish at this age is for parents to reunite, and they may attempt to accomplish this task on their own.


Problems with the Divorce

If the children grew up in a nurturing environment, it will only be normal for them to fear being abandoned when a divorce takes place. Both parents must reassure the children that neither parent is going to abandon them. Younger children do not understand divorce, and they may feel that the parents are divorcing them. Parents should explain that parent separation does not result in losing a parent.

Children are always aware of what is going on in the home, and they are generally aware that they have no control over the divorce. Some children at this age may blame one parent for the separation, and it is crucial for the emotional stability of the child that both parents explain that the blame is not on either parent. Parents should maintain a regular schedule because predictability is healthy for the child. Finally, openness about the situation is very critical for the child’s emotional development.

The implications and ramifications of the breakup are much clearer to a child six to eleven years, who may draw divorce experience from his peers. At this age, a child may have a notion that somehow divorced parents may some day get back together (even when there is no objective reason to believe this). He or she may feel rejected by a parent who left the house and worry about the family finances. A child may play sick to stay home from school. Nostalgia for what was may obscure feelings of abandonment and loneliness.

Parents should try to get the child to open up and share his feelings. Both parents should spend time with the children to reassure them that "things will work out." Parents must respect that the child of this age is developing a sense of privacy. Parents can try to talk about things of mutual interest other than the problems and encourage outside school activities.


Possible Reactions:
  • Believes parents are getting back together
  • Feels rejected by parent who left the house
  • Feels insecure financially and about the future
  • Looks back all the time to what was
  • Plays sick to stay home from school
  • Feels abandoned and alone

Remedy Ideas for Parents:
  • Try to get the child to open up
  • Share your emotions
  • Spend quality time with each other
  • Reassure safety
  • Reassure the family atmosphere as much as possible
  • Respect the child and his or her privacy
  • Talk about things of mutual interest other than the problems
  • Encourage outside school activities



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