When you have small children, it is easy to convince yourself they are too little to be affected by divorce. But Mommy and Daddy are the center of a young child’s world, and a family break-up affects them more than you may realize. If you are going through a divorce, it is important to understand your kids are under stress too. You need to know the different thoughts and behaviors they might experience so you can help them through the difficult time. .
Young children are too little to care about much besides what makes them happy. A toddler does not care if Mommy and Daddy get along as long as Mommy and Daddy give him love and affection. When parents separate, a young child may not understand why one parent is no longer living with them. He may keep looking out the window waiting for Daddy to come home for dinner or refuse to go to sleep until Mommy gives him a goodnight kiss. Children experience confusion when parents separate because toddlers are just not capable of understanding why it is no longer possible for everyone to live in the same house anymore.
Young children may not be able to understand that the problems Mommy and Daddy have with each other have nothing to do with them. According to the National Network for Child Care, it is not uncommon for a small child to blame himself for his parents getting a divorce. A young child may think Mommy and Daddy are not living together anymore because he was bad and the parent who left does not want to be around him anymore.
Fear of Losing Parents
A child who is used to living in a home with both of his parents is going to experience a shock when one parent moves out. Suddenly, his life has changed completely, and he doesn’t understand why. All he knows is Daddy is now living in a new apartment, and Mommy has to take him there and leave him so he can play with Daddy. A young child may develop a fear that the parent he is still living in his home with will leave too and he will be left alone. He may become clingy and not want Mommy or Daddy to be out of his line of sight.
Separation and divorce changes everything a child knows. One day everything is fine, his routine is normal, and life is good. The next day Daddy does not live with him anymore, his schedule and routine are different, and the life he was used to no longer exists. Toddlers have not yet developed the coping skills needed to deal with the stress they feel when Mommy and Daddy are getting a divorce, so they act out. Young children may start having temper tantrums; showing aggression by throwing things, hitting and biting; and becoming unusually defiant.
Toddlers may also may show signs of regression. They may start wetting their pants after they are potty trained, stop sleeping through the night, stop talking, or start asking for a pacifier after they have given it up.