If you’ve separated or in the midst of divorce, it’s not uncommon to hear that the children are struggling. It often shows up as a call from the school. No parent likes hearing that their child is acting out in class, being disruptive or uncooperative. When going through a separation or divorce, it’s common to blame your spouse or really worry if your kids are going to be okay. What have we done wrong? How can we support them? What’s going on? Is something going on or is it being blown out of proportion? When we recognize that there may be something going on and we come up empty, we tend to put the blame on our spouse, and sometimes we even get angry and get in more arguments.
The truth is, parents do the best they can and so do their children. There are a myriad of reasons why children act out at school and in the case of separation and divorce, your kids world’s are being rocked.
A divorce, move to a new city, or death in the family are big life events that are hard on everyone. This is particularly true for young children who do not know how to express their feelings and have not yet developed coping mechanisms.
Has something happened to interrupt your child’s sleep patterns? Are they not getting their naps? Are they waking up frequently during the night from noisy neighbors or growing pains? Even adults act out when we don’t get proper sleep.
Children develop self-esteem issues for different reasons, but one of the ramifications is changes in mood that can lead to disruptive behavior.
These are some of the reasons why your child may be acting out in school. But now the questions becomes, what can you do about it as their parent?
Talk to Your Child
First, see if you can pinpoint the cause. If it’s not something already listed, do some digging. Take your child to the doctor. Is their hearing and sight okay? Do they have any GI trouble? Are they being picked on? Are they getting enough exercise? Talk openly with your child and ask them what is going on.
Particularly in the case of separation and divorce, kids need to hear and see that certain things are going to stay the same–like your relationship with them. They need time with you and that connection. They need to hear things like you’ll always be there for them, that you’ll always love them, that they will be safe and you’ll make sure of that.
How you explain your separation or divorce with your child should depend on your child’s development. Divorce will affect them but you shouldn’t go into the whys of your breakup. Letting them know that they will always have a home and that you’ll always love them even if won’t be living in the same home is important. And letting them know they’ll have a home at two houses–yours too. Spending time with your kids and letting them feel assured that you aren’t leaving or abandoning them is important. Set boundaries on what you say to your kids–how much you’ll explain about what’s going on and assure them of your commitment to them and love for them is key.
You may be able to identify and solve the issue yourself. For example, if your child was frustrated from their poor eyesight, a trip to the eye doctor may quickly solve your problems. However, if the behavioral issue stems from a big life change like separation or divorce, you may need the assistance of a trained behavioral therapist.
Working together with your spouse through the issues of separation and divorce can help provide a calmer experience for your kids vs ratcheting up the conflict. You can choose a process to divorce that will support you, your family and your co-parenting relationship afterward. If you’re interested in knowing about a better way to divorce, contact us at www.greatrivermediations.com We’d love to talk with you and support your family through the separation and divorce process!