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How should the divorce decision be explained to the child?

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The decision to divorce should be told in an environment where both parents are present. The place where the conversation will take place may be a common house during the marriage union, or it may be a place outside the home. However, since the conversation will create a negative affect in the child, the place where the speech will be made should not be a children’s room, kitchen or similar places where the child spends a lot of time, in order not to be a trigger in the future. If the speech is to be held at home, it would be more appropriate to choose places such as the living room or the living room that are open to the common use of the family.

Sometimes, even before the legal divorce process, the parent may decide to live in separate houses. In such cases, the child should be informed about the subject without causing him to find questions and answers on his own.

The most important factor that scares children is uncertainty. For this reason, the child should be informed about the changes in his life after the divorce.

It should not be forgotten that; While speaking, not only verbal language but also your body language will be active. Excessive emotional reactions such as crying during a conversation will shake your child’s confidence in the process. The attitudes and behaviors of the parents in front of the child will also determine their perception of the divorce decision. That’s why it’s important for the parent to be ready to talk.

If the child is less than 5 years old; Explanations made in short, simple words without details and without subjective concepts are sufficient.

The child needs to have confidence that parenting will continue even after the separation has occurred.

For example; “Your mom/dad and I have decided to live separately now. Because we don’t want to be married to each other anymore. I’ll be moving to another house soon, and you’ll stay here with your mom/dad. Tomorrow I will take you to my new home. You can come there whenever you want. There will also be a new room, we can take the toys and items of your request there, or we can buy new items and toys for the new room.”explanations such as

The child will be uneasy about what will happen next in his life and how he will be with his parents. Therefore, it is important to be assured that the life order will remain the same as much as possible, that he or she will be able to see both the mother and the father equally, and it is important to tell the child what will remain the same in his life.

“You will go to the same school again, you will study in the same class. Your teacher will also remain the same.” explanations can be made.

Usually from the age of 5, children ask more questions about parental separation. It is important to answer all these questions as accurately as possible and to give clear answers. However, these answers should not include expressions that would accuse, humiliate or put the other parent under responsibility.

Children between the ages of 6 and 9 may find the idea of ​​separation more reasonable. Some parents may even consider the indifference that occurs in children as abnormal. However, this does not mean that emotional processes do not work. Like every child, the divorce process and its aftermath should be explained to children of this age, and their concerns about the future should be addressed.

Children between the ages of 9-12 may react more harshly due to their seasonal characteristics. They can more openly express their feelings, or rather their anger towards the new situation. It should be emphasized that living separately will be the best solution for everyone, that they can meet with their separated parents periodically, and their concerns about the future should be eliminated.

It is very important for the parents to make the child feel their decision and their determination on this decision. It is very difficult for children to give the message that this decision can be changed with the attitude and desire of the child, and it causes them to take responsibility for this process and to be more traumatized psychologically.

Although the separation of parents is traumatic for many children, each child is affected differently and gives different reactions. Of course, all children want their parents to have a happy and enjoyable relationship together. All other situations cause psychological reactions in children. The child’s age, general psychological characteristics, how the parents cope with the problems in the divorce process, and the socio-economic and socio-cultural characteristics of the family are determinative in the children’s reactions.

After divorce, many children may experience problems such as socially maladaptive behaviors, feelings of guilt, anger control problems, disobedience, anxiety problems, depression, academic success problems, school adjustment and conflict with authority. Sometimes, the inability to fully express psychological distress can cause children to experience some psychosomatic disorders. The first 18 months after a divorce is usually a time of acute distress for both the child and the parent. Excessive strain and anxiety in separations, increase in the intensity of fears/added new ones, grief reactions due to separation can be seen; After 18 months, acute symptoms subside, a deep sense of loss and vulnerability remains. Sudden divorce decisions affect the child more, but separation can also be a salvation for the child in intense chaotic family environments where conflict is evident. The consistent attitude of the parent also determines the general emotional state of the child. In all circumstances, “staying together only for the sake of the children” is not beneficial. However, of course, if it is possible to address and solve the existing problems, if the child can see his parents happy when they are together, this will be the most ideal solution.

The symptoms that may occur after the divorce should be followed and professional help should be sought to cope with these symptoms if necessary.

The main post-traumatic symptoms are:

Loss of appetite or increased appetite (not gaining weight/gaining a lot of weight; eating attitude disorders)

Irritability/anger symptoms, increased guilt, unhappiness, restlessness

Pains (abdominal, head, stomach etc.)

Sleep problems and recurring nightmares (night terrors, inability to sleep alone)

Unprecedented learning and memory problems

Significant behavioral changes; such as shyness, shyness, social isolation ~and aggression.

Enuresis (pee incontinence)

Encopresis (poop incontinence)

Attention and concentration problems

Life changes such as changing city or house, changing caregiver, a new marriage should be postponed immediately after the divorce. In particular, an attempt on a new marriage should not be started before a year has passed and the divorce is finalized.

In addition, necessary changes should be made gradually. It is more appropriate for the child to continue living in the place before the divorce and to attend the same school. It is essential to make as few changes in his life as possible. In this way, the child accepts this big change in his life more easily.

After leaving home, the parent who will be separated from the child should continue to communicate with the child in a decreasing way from 5-6 days a week to 2 days a week, from intense to less. In this way, the child adapts more easily to separation.

The child, who suddenly hears the decision to separate, may experience great fear and anxiety when he learns that one of his two parents will leave the house the next day. First, he needs to get used to this idea, ask questions if he has any, and be able to express all his negative feelings. For this reason, it is important for parents to spend more time with their children for a while after the separation decision is discussed, expressing that they are ready to support them in any situation and to answer their every question.

In addition to the negative effects of divorce on the child, spouses should not ignore their own negative feelings and should seek professional help if necessary. Because their recovery speed will enable their children to get through this process faster and more positively. When the marriage ends, if there is a child in the middle, the relationship between the parents will last a lifetime. Therefore, if there is a problem in this relationship, it is useful to seek couples counseling even after divorce. Because the healthier this relationship is, the more it is free from anger, the more positive reflections will be on the child. Thus, the child will not have to bear the burden of his parents’ anger towards each other and take sides in this difficult process.

Based on the fact that children take their parents as models, a mother who cries all the time will give the child the impression that the situation is bad, while a cheerful and effortful mother will give the impression that everything is going well. Of course, it is natural for parents to be upset in the acute period and to have difficulties in getting used to the new situation. However, it is important to explain that this decision was taken with the will of both parties, so this sadness will pass after a while, and after a while, it is important to instill hope in the child after the life order is well established. Extreme reactions, abusive attitudes and forcing the child to take a side can cause children to develop very serious psychological problems.

In addition, professional help can be obtained from a pedagogue or specialist child psychologist with their children. Because what happens in this process and what the next life order will be is extremely important. For this reason, counseling and support about how to guide the child in accordance with the special situation of the family and how the parents should behave in this process is of vital importance.

Both parents should be able to spend time with the child on a regular basis. Today, in most divorces, custody is given to the mother and the father has very limited time. This is sometimes the preference of fathers, or the parent who takes custody believes that more limited contact with the other parent will be appropriate for the child. However, here, too, the child’s age, gender, relationship with his/her parents, and life style are decisive. For example, if a child who stays with his mother on weekdays only studies with his mother and always does fun activities with his father on the weekends, there is inevitably a tension between him and his mother. All responsibilities of the child must be shared. It is wrong to see this sharing as just a “work sharing”. Because this is also the child’s need. For example, it is important that both parents know about their academic success or difficulties during study and can ask their parents for help when they need it. Or, it is important to have free time with both parents and to have time for pleasant activities. For this reason, this point must be taken into account when planning the time of the child’s being with the mother and father.

Play Child Period (1-3 years) Understands that one of the parents has moved. But he cannot fully understand why. It only shows symptoms related to the deprivation of the leaving parent.

Preschool Period (3-6 years) Does not know the meaning of divorce, but realizes that one of the parents is not active in his life. 3-5 year olds may feel intense guilt, believing that they caused this situation.

School Period (6-11 years) Begins to understand what divorce is. He realizes that his parents will no longer live together and that they will no longer love each other as before.

In adolescence, however, parental divorce is often perceived in detail and complexity, rather than plain logic. Adolescents express concern about this, but older adolescents are more mature because they are more developed emotionally and mentally.

Of course, each divorce should be evaluated on its own and on its own terms. The complexity of the event and how it affects children and other members of the family also affect children’s perceptions. For example, although many children in adolescence perceive the situation fully, they may experience confusion due to the mistakes of their parents about the way they present the divorce process, and the emotional problems that already exist in adolescence are exacerbated.

When their parents separate, children continue to express their desire to change this situation, either secretly or openly, for long periods of time. However, they experience guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, anger, etc. They may not be able to cope well in the face of changing life conditions, as well as an increase in their emotions. As a result of these, an increase in their attachment to those around them, irrelevant conversations, the desire to be alone, accusation, carelessness, and an increase in inappropriate behaviors can often be observed. Children can react in a variety of ways to their parents’ separation and divorce, ranging from guilt (a sense of responsibility) to anger (blaming one or both parents) to denial (acting as if nothing had happened). And also; Fear, sadness, anger, guilt, rejection, infantilisation, (sometimes re-starting bedwetting/pooping), sleep problems, masturbation, school problems, pain, eating problems, maladaptive behaviors, aggression, introversion or hyperactivity can be observed.

In order to prevent bad habits in the children of divorced families, the child continues to receive attention and value from his parents, and grows up in a safe environment; therefore, the negative effects arising from the deterioration of the relationship between the parents should not be carried to a level that would harm the development of the child. Parents should not forget that they are the ‘mother’ and ‘dad’ of their children, even if they are separated. Applying as much common discipline to the child as possible, setting rules, being able to come together in decisions about his life, and being active all the time in the child’s behavior leads to a positive trend in the child’s behavior. To be able to come together for the child not only in negative events but also in good times; will nourish the child’s sense of interest and value in a healthy way. Thus, the child will not attempt harmful behaviors to attract attention. Ex-spouses should keep their relations as good as possible, should not reflect problems to the child, and should always cooperate in matters related to children. In the absence of the same-sex parent for the child; therefore, in cases where it is not possible to obtain such a model; The child should be provided with areas such as the development of the parent’s ability to guide the child, or the environment of close relatives outside the home, courses, club activities at school. Because, as in all problems, the protective effect of the social environment of the child after divorce is very important. If the child believes that his parents will support him and protect him in any situation, he will feel stronger to cope with the problems he encounters. But if he believes that he is left alone, neglected and is not valuable enough for his mother and / or father, then his self-confidence will not develop and he will turn to environments and habits in which he will feel good, even if it is harmful.

One of the biggest fears of children is change. Divorce will bring many changes in domestic responsibilities. In this change, perhaps they will be prevented from meeting with some of their close relatives or friends. Divorced parents may show a marked inconsistency in discipline and lack of control over their children compared to non-divorced families. Creating time for both parents and children to adapt to change; It is important not to mistreat the child who has adjustment problems by acting hastily, and to explain to the child what they can and cannot do at home slowly and in an appropriate language. If possible, the child has a private room/space in both houses; It is important that he be allowed to have the items/photos etc. he wants. It is extremely important that the parents agree on the basic habits of the child’s daily routine. For example, if a child who is directed to go to bed at a certain time is put to bed later in the other house, this imbalance may affect him and may cause sleep problems. This may cause conflict with his parents who insist on this rule, and not being able to get up at the time he should get up to go to school and spend the day tired at school. However, many parents cannot provide this cooperation. In fact, one of the reasons for their divorce is that they do not have a consensus on the rules. In this case, it is necessary to find a middle way. Otherwise, insisting and being compelling about the child’s behavior on the other side will not work and cause the child to be restless. For this reason, it is sometimes the right attitude to apply your own rules when your child is with you, to encourage him to follow these rules and not to interfere with the other party. As children get older, they are more likely to analyze what is right and beneficial for them, and to model the parent who has a better relationship with the child.

If the new relationship is to be married by the parent or is considered long-term and this person will be involved in the child’s life (for example, if they will live in the same house, etc.); This news should be given to the child by getting used to it. But it is important that the giving of this news and the marriage process are distant dates. If the child receives the news that he is going to marry this person before he can fully accept that there is someone new in his mother’s/father’s life, it becomes more challenging for the child. Instead, the new person is first introduced and said, “x is my friend, we have a very good relationship with him, we love each other; I want you to meet him. He also wants to get to know you; I talked about you a lot, showed you your photos, etc.” It is necessary to make an introduction such as and give the child time to meet. Meanwhile, the child may have questions. It is necessary to answer all these questions as accurately as possible. Afterwards, the child can be introduced at any time and spend a few hours together without forcing the child too much. In this process, it is important not to say anything instead of guiding questions such as “do you love him or not” and to give the child the opportunity to express their own comments and feelings. Children, no matter who they are, are uncomfortable seeing someone else in the presence of their parents. If they say they love him very much after the first meeting, they are most likely saying it to please you. Or they believe that you will not accept any other answer. In this case, they suppress all their negative emotions. Sometimes they tell the other parent about their discomfort and sadness. In order not to allow this, you should give the message that you are ready to listen to the child’s every emotion, and tell him not to rush into this matter and try to give it a while. As a good and positive relationship develops between them, the initial worries will decrease.

After this important change, the child will inevitably want to be more attached to the person who is fixed in his life. On the other hand, they may conflict more with their caregivers and expect more help in meeting their needs. In fact, she expects more affection and needs to test how much she is loved and whether she will be abandoned by her caregiver. In such cases, it is important for the caregiver to have a more developed tolerance, to show love and affection to the child as much as possible, and to see these experiences as temporary. However, accepting the changes in the child should not be doing whatever he wants; Doing whatever the child wants out of pity after the divorce may also cause negative changes in the child’s behavior. Consistent discipline must be maintained, daily needs must be met in order, and habits must be consistent. In this process, parents should not expect too much from the caregiver; They should always be at the forefront in meeting the child’s basic needs and providing discipline. It should not be forgotten that the divorce period is one of the periods when the child needs the attention and love of his parents the most.