Divorce and family separation are both major adjustments for children. Both can lead to a disruption in a child’s sense of security, and also create fear about the future. There are a set of psychological tasks that children of divorce must master in order to achieve closure of their parents’ separation and move on with their lives.
In order for children to stay on their developmental paths, children must:
- First, Acknowledge the reality of the divorce: The major component of this task is for children to understand that their parents are separating and the reasons behind this separation. The ability to perceive and comprehend this change is a difficult thing for many children to grasp, but doing so is a big part of acceptance. As time progresses, they may need to learn how to clarify their misconceptions about the divorce.
- Next, a child must disengage from parental conflict and distress: Children must be able to get on with their lives and continue their task of being a child. To protect their own identity and life path, children need to develop effective coping strategies.
- Deal with loss: The children involved in divorce and separation experience many losses. Not only must they overcome the loss of their family unit, they must also cope with the loss of all of their routines, traditions, and resources.
- Resolve self-blame and anger: Even though children of divorce love both of their parents, they also may feel deep anger toward one or both of them as a result of the divorce. Overtime, this anger should fade.
- Accept the permanence of the divorce or separation: In the beginning, a child may be in denial about the divorce, or fantasize about their parents getting back together. In time, these children need to overcome their denial, grieve the loss, and finally accept the divorce.
- Finally, a child should achieve realistic hope regarding relationships: Even though a child may get a bad taste in their mouth regarding love, they should eventually begin to realize the importance of taking a chance and achieving realistic hope. Children must remain open to love, commitment, and fidelity, even though they know that divorce is a possibility.
Parents can continue to serve as role models for learning new and healthy relationship skills. For help getting through the divorce process in one piece, click here to contact your dedicated Portland, Oregon Divorce Attorney today.