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Helping children heal after a divorce

Money, emotions and property: There are many reasons that a divorce presents a challenging situation for adults in Illinois and across the country. Many will feel anger, grief, sadness and even confusion. It is important to remember that the event can greatly affect children, too, even when they are not vocalizing it. Knowing how to look for the signs of trouble and taking action can help keep a family intact.

According to Psychology Today, children have no control and little understanding of why the divorce has happened. Experts suggest that parents do the following based on children’s ages: 

  •        0 to 4 years old: Talk about the basic changes and keep day-to-day life as similar as possible. Alert any caretakers of the divorce and let the child know it is OK to talk about his or her feelings.
  •        5 to 12 years old: Discuss how the divorce may affect the child’s current routine, such as staying in or leaving his or her current school. Allow the child to ask questions and answer them simply.
  •        Teenagers: Talk about the changes that are happening but do not use the child as a confidant or a substitute second parent.

The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry reports that it is common for children to react to divorce by rejecting either the custodial parent or the other spouse. Other warning signs that a child is not coping well include aggression, withdrawal or an increase in behavioral problems.

Parents may want to consider consulting with the child’s primary care provider regarding the change. The physician may be able to recommend a therapist who can help the family through this difficult time.

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