It's Not the Divorce; It's The Conflict : Wisdom for families
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It's Not the Divorce; It's The Conflict

by Claire Barnes on 10/28/16

It’s not the Divorce; It’s the Conflict

It’s not the divorce; it’s the conflict ...which victimizes children when parents separate. 

Children can manage pretty well during parental separation or divorce IF their parents minimize the conflict to which the children are exposed.  In fact, when the pre-divorce conflict subsides and a calmer, post-divorce family routine begins, many anxieties children are suffering begin to disappear. Meaning, the very act of parents separating can reduce the conflict to which a child is exposed.

Children who observe their parents and extended family members conducting themselves in highly conflicted ways, grow up believing this is how you solve problems.  Children in homes with ongoing conflict fight at school and can even become bullies.  It is no surprise, family conflict patterns are passed down from one generation to the next and between relatives.

As parents and grandparents, it is our job to protect our children, including keeping them safe in their own families.  This safety includes freedom from anxiety and stress caused by arguments among their caregivers. When parents do not know how to provide the protection, or are unable for some reason to offer it, the negative outcomes of outbursts and fighting can have long lasting effects.  Let’s examine how these behaviors impact youngsters at different ages and stages of their lives.

Children age five and younger: The family is where very young children learn about their world.  Infants, toddlers and preschoolers develop attachment to the important adults in their lives – mommy, daddy, grandparents, caregivers. The generic definition of attachment is:  the condition of being close to something or someone, in particular. Historically in our culture, females – mommies and grandmas – were considered appropriate caregivers to whom children could attach. 

We now know, young children can attach to a LOT of people – those adults who are consistently in their lives offering comfort, reassurance and nurture (food, clothing, a home), no matter what the gender. This is how children learn the world can be a safe or frightening place, depending on how the attachments develop.

It is the responsibility of the adults to whom a small child is connected to consistently provide a peaceful environment where the youngster feels safe and can grow and develop successfully.  If that safe environment is nonexistent, the following early childhood difficulties may occur in very young children:

--The inability to attach to significant family members or caregivers.
--Regression from developmental benchmarks (ex: children who are potty trained may start to have toileting accidents).

--Clinging to a caregiver; difficulties with normal separations (ex: when dropped off at daycare or school).

--Sleep disturbances.

--Regression in language development.

--Demonstrating anxiety when one or both parents is not nearby.

--Hyper-vigilance (heightened sensory awareness anticipating environmental threats).

[i] Use of Facebook is an increasing element leading to divorce and separation.


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