Kids react to divorce differently depending on age

All divorcing parents worry about the impact of their break-up on their children and try to give them the support they need. However, what kids need largely depends on their ages.

Many parents don't realize that babies and toddlers can feel the impact of a divorce even if they're not able to express it. For children this young, structure and routine are essential. As much as possible, you should maintain the stability in their lives. This includes eating meals at their usual times and keeping the same sleep schedules, regardless of with which parent they're living.

Preschool-age kids will understand a bit more, but will likely still be confused. Young children are likely to think that they somehow caused the break-up, or that their parents' feelings towards them have changed, so reassurance is essential. As with babies and toddlers, so is sticking to a routine and easing into necessary changes.

If you have school-age children, it's best if the two of you can talk to them together about the divorce before one parent moves out, without going into more detail than they need. Reassurance that you both will remain active in their lives is essential, as is refraining from blaming or speaking badly of the other parent or encouraging the kids to take sides.

While younger kids often cling more closely to one or both parents amid a break-up, teens often remove themselves from the situation and spend more time with friends or on their own. This can make it harder for parents to determine just how impacted they are by the break-up. It's not uncommon for teens to act out when their parents divorce, or even to get into trouble. While you may be tempted to go easy on your teens because you know they're going through a rough time, this is when they need discipline and supervision more than ever.

When parents are able to have a healthy co-parenting relationship after divorce, the kids are more likely to grow into adulthood with fewer emotional issues. If you believe that counseling would be helpful either for your child or for the family as a whole, your New York family law attorney can likely recommend therapists or support groups in your area.

Source: CBS News, "Brangelina split raises questions about how divorce affects kids," Mary Brophy Marcus, Sep. 23, 2016

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