WHAT IS A FAMILY?
Today's families come in all sizes and styles. A family may have one or two parents and may include grandparents. In some families, dad works at home while mom goes to the office. In others, both parents work outside the home. Today's families may be blended with children from different marriages or a family may be composed of adoptive members of different ethnic heritage. Whatever a family looks like, wherever it lives, whomever it includes, each family is the "right" kind of family if it nurtures and loves it members.
A family is one of the most important influences in a child's life. It is important for child care providers to support a child through the ups and downs of family life. Many children will experience the trauma of divorce. Each child is unique and will handle life changes in their own special way but most children will express their emotions through their behavior. During a divorce it is important to be sensitive to the needs of a child. A child may feel angry, guilty or insecure and will need extra understanding. They will need loving support and opportunities to express their feelings. Understanding common reactions to divorce can help a child care provider be sensitive to a child's needs.
Divorce can disrupt a child's development. Effects will differ depending on the age of the child but may include the following:
|EFFECTS OF DIVORCE|
|UNDER FIVE YEARS||FIVE TO EIGHT YEARS||NINE TO TWELVE YEARS|
The fear of abandonment is very common and is expressed in a variety of ways. Children may cling, whine and have tantrums when left at child care. When a parent returns, the child may greet the parent with tears or crankiness.
Anxiety about abandonment is still common. It may be expressed through overeating, begging for gifts, or fantasies about special treats or vacations.
Children have a shaken sense of identity; they feel responsibility for the divorce and caught in the middle.
Children often regress for weeks or months. They may return to the comfort of security blankets or outgrown toys or have lapses in toilet training.
Intense sadness and sense of loss, often expressed as a yearning for the departed parent. School work often suffers.
Friendships deteriorate as children focus inward.
Some children become more irritable and engage in fighting while others show an increased fear of aggression and of being hurt.
Anger is often directed at the custodial parent and other children.
Children often have intense anger and express their anger at one or both parents. Some children become overly stern and righteous, while others may indulge in petty stealing and lying.
|Guild & Self-Blame:
Young children move between extremes of feeling helpless and of taking total responsibility for the divorce. They have a hard time grasping the concept of cause and effect.
|Wishes of Reconciliation:
Children dream of bringing the family back together again.
Child care providers can be a support to children of divorce by first, recognizing behavior changes and supporting both children and parents during this difficult time. Parents may feel out of control at times. The parent with the primary responsibility for the children often experiences overload, as they try to juggle the demands of home, children, and work or school. Some parents react by hesitating to say no or being afraid to set any limits. Other parents over control, resorting to commands and force. External support for these families is important. A child care provider can be a needed support for children and parents by being sensitive and creating opportunities for communication. Discuss behavior changes with parents and encourage them to be supportive of their children during this difficult time.
Family Connections by Thomas R. Lee, Utah State University Extension
Children & Divorce by Suzanne E. West, Cornell Cooperative Extension