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Children and Divorce
THE EFFECT OF DIVORCE ON CHILDREN
Divorce is a fact of life for many families. According to 1987 Census Bureau statistics, almost 4 million American couples with children are divorced. While there are differing opinions about the effect of divorce on children, it is clear that there are things parents can do to help their children deal with the stresses and painful feelings divorce creates. The most important is that children need to feel loved and secure regardless of the marital status of their parents.
Conflict between their parents is very difficult for children. Social adjustment is affected to a major degree by whether children are in a situation where parents create a harmonious home environment. The more conflict there is between the parents, the more probability there is that the child will feel s/he is the problem. In addition, saying negative about the other parent creates split loyalties which are very destructive for children.
The behavior on the part of the parents that is most highly correlated with good adjustment and the maintenance of self-control for children going through divorce is cooperation between the parents. This includes maintaining agreement on child rearing policies, low conflict between parents, and active support on the part of the non-custodial parent in child rearing.
Adjustment to the changes in the family is affected by the degree to which parents are able to continue positive relationships with their children despite conflicts with the other parent. Children need to know that parents individually take an interest in them. Positive relationships with both parents mitigate many negative effects of divorce. Perhaps understanding this can counter the temptation to use the child as a weapon.
CHILDREN'S FEELINGS AND BEHAVIORS ASSOCIATED WITH DIVORCE
Sadness, Depression. May be characterized by fatigue, poor decision making, withdrawal, difficulty concentrating, change in eating or sleeping habit, passivity, hopelessness.
Denial. Might be out of hope that if it isn't discussed, parents may change their minds. Behavior may vary from withdrawn or passive to aggressive and acting out.
Embarrassment. Fear of pity, loss of respect, lack of understanding from others of what they are going through.
Anger. If not fueled by parents, runs its course in a year. May be disguised as other feelings or may disguise other feelings (i.e. bullying or fear). May express itself as brooding or introspective anger as well as aggressive physical or verbal anger.
Guilt. Children often feel that they cause the problems between the parents. May be a form of anger unconsciously directed.
Concern about being cared for. Elementary kids: fear of abandonment. Children have a limited concept of time and an intense psychological and emotional dependance on parents. Older kids: Who will pay for things, school? Could parents stop loving them too? May resist leaving home; may steal items in effort to make up for lost security.
Bargaining. Comes from hope parents will get back together. "If I am really good..." Feelings of optimism or sense of desperation.
Regression. May freeze where they are or go back to stage they remember as being secure. May feel incapable of working independently.
Hypermaturity. Child may assume adult tasks.
Somatic symptoms. More around Fridays, Mondays and vacation times. Head and stomach aches.
Difficulty concentrating. Restlessness, daydreaming, fantasizing. Can result in truancy.
WHY PARENTS TRY TO MAKE TIME CHILDREN CHOOSE SIDES
GUIDELINES FOR PARENTS
A spouse who does not make timely support payments can have his or her wages garnished through the Florida Child Support Enforcement Department. The court orders that alimony be automatically taken from the paying spouse's paycheck. The court can also order that the paying spouse give the alimony payments to the Support Enforcement Department, which will give the money to the receiving spouse. The department acts as a third party which manages the collection and distribution of support payments on a statewide basis. If the paying spouse of child support or alimony fails to make timely and sufficient payments, the court can suspend the paying spouse's driver's license.
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