Kids more often than not become the scapegoat in a divorce. Either the parent is releasing their anger on them or using them to get back at the other parent. Instead of making a joint effort to help their children, parents usually make it a fight for sole custody. Sometimes spouses get so caught up in resentment and vengeance that they forget the fragile emotional state of their child and use them as weapons to obtain unfair demands.Unless a parent is emotionally or physically abusive to the child or negligent and exploitative, both the parents should have equal rights. It will help to let of their ego and hurt and concentrate on the welfare of the child. Many a times the sole custody battle is so expensive that parents use up all the savings in child custody. Who loses in the midst of all this? CHILDREN. More often than not it is the money that could have been spent on child’s future that they end up wasting on a custody battle, when not required.
Emotional Effects of Divorce.
Children feel that it is their fault that the parents have divorced. It is very important to tell them as they grow up that it isn’t their fault. EFT is a gentle tool and the parents can use it on their children to tell them that they are loved in spite of the separation. Grown up children also show the same shock, grief and feeling of abandonment as their younger counterparts, even though their ability to comprehend is much more than younger children.
Children feel powerless to stop the divorce. It becomes acute when they have limited contact with one parent.
Feeling of loss of one parent for preschoolers between ages 3-5 is acute. In art therapy and role plays children play out themes of loss. They have fear of loss. They may cling to their parents due to fear. They may regress to infantile habits and get more aggressive and stubborn in school. If the parents bicker in front of them then the affect is even more.
Usually there is a feeling of loss of father as the children are usually with their mother. They feel that as if they have been left out by their father and at times they feel insecure as new relationships spring up in their mother’s lives. And usually these are the kids who get abused by their step fathers as mothers do not have that much control over abusive step fathers.
According to Mullen et al (1993), the presence of a stepfather in the home doubles the risk for girls, not only for abuse by the stepfather but also by other men before the arrival of the stepfather in the home. Diana Russell in her book ‘The secret Trauma’ (1986) says , after a divorce when a woman remarries the step daughters are at greater risk of being abused by their step fathers than their biological fathers.
Mothers can prevent abuse of their child by step fathers by sharing joint custody with their spouses (as research indicates that mothers, with sole custody, in new relationships are unable to stop abuse of kids by the step fathers) . Joint custody can also prevent the need for one parent to become dominant in his/her decisions in raising the child and unwittingly taking hasty and improper decisions regarding the child.
Frequent separation and reconciliation of parents can be more traumatic than a clean break.
How can you help your child during Divorce?
Unless your spouse is doing bodily or emotional harm to the child, both of you should be involved in raising your child. Don’t let your feelings of anger, hostility or hurt deny the children their rights to be with your spouse. Children deserve both parents. Infrequently one parent may not want to see his/her child otherwise mostly both parents are equally attached to their kids.
The spouses who have not initiated divorce usually take the vengeance route which is very bad for the child. They forget that their child is attached to their father or mother and impose their vengeful restrictions on the child. They forget that a child is not a property to be kept only with one parent. Children deserve nurture equally from both the parents.
The following would help the children
Deal with your own emotional baggage concerning divorce.
Do not disappear completely from their lives.
Chalk out a clear visitation routine.
Do not force children into visitations.
Do not force children to stop meeting their father or mother.
Do not tell bad or hurtful things about your spouse to them.
Be clear that the child isn’t being abused by a parent.
Deal very gently with them.
Do not threaten or coerce them when they are stubborn.
Give them time to adjust to the changes.
Fill the shoes of one parent rather than trying to play the role of both parents.
If the children show the effects of divorce even after 6 months of divorce then take them to a professional for help.
Mullen et al (1993), Childhood sexual abuse and mental health in adult life. Br .J. Psychiatry 163:721- 732.