Essay, Research Paper: Divorce And Children

Psychology

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It seems that more and more marriages are falling apart everyday. Divorce rates
seen to be climbing astronomically. In so many of these divorces there are
children to be considered. What is best for the child? Who will get custody?
Will the child be scarred for life? It’s really hard to say. The overall
effects on our children vary according to the factors involved. I am going to
attempt to discuss a few of the problems that can occur with children of
divorced families and what parents can do to ease the transition. I will limit
this discussion to infantile age thru early elementary aged children. Let’s
start with understanding the parents role concerning being together or being
apart. Obviously, two parents can provide children with far more guidance,
sustenance, and protection than one, and are more likely to prevent the kinds of
psychological disturbance that may result from deprivations of these necessities
...When one parent is temporarily absent from the intact home, it is likely that
the other will be available to ratify the child’s needs in a loving way. This
is not so readily the situation in the divorced home. ( Gardner, 1977). In this
statement he illustrates the importance of having both parents together. This
can be emphasized further with a statement from Buchanan, Maccoby, and Dornbusch
(1996). Children’s parents are their anchors. Parents provide the structure
for children’s daily lives, and even when parents are not functioning very
well, children depend on them for a sense of security that enables them to cope
with their developmental tasks. When one parent leaves the home, the child
realizes a shattering possibility; parents are not always there. It is not hard
to realize that divorce can have a devastating effect on children. Let’s brake
it down by age groups; infants, toddlers, and so on. DeBorg (1997) states that
infants “do not understand conflict, but may react to changes in parents
energy level and mood.” She goes on to list possible reactions like “loss of
appetite; upset stomach - may spit up more; more fretful or anxious.” She says
that “parents should keep their normal routines,” and “stay calm in front
of the child.” Toddlers “understand that a parent has moved away, but
doesn’t understand why.” I know that my son was very confused. He was only
two when my wife and I separated. He seemed to display allot of anger and
insecurity. DeBorg says that a toddlers reactions could include “more crying,
clinging; problems sleeping; regression to infant behaviors; and worry when
parent is out of sight.” My son, his name is Cody, definitely fits this
profile. He cried constantly. It seemed that nothing would calm him down. If you
got him to go to sleep, good luck keeping him there. As far as infant behaviors
go, his biggest problems were wanting to be rocked like when he was younger and
trying to go back to the bottle. DeBorg say to “allow some return to infantile
behaviors, but set clear limits.” Easier said than done I can assure you.
Preschoolers “don’t understand what separation or divorce means,” they
“realize one parent is not as active in his or her life” (DeBorg, 1997).
Their reactions could include “pleasant and unpleasant fantasies; feeling
uncertain about the future; feeling responsible; and they may hold their anger
inside.” Deborg’s first strategy listed for parents is to “encourage the
child to talk.” This makes sense if you are concerned with straitening out
these issues of anger and feeling responsible. It seems to be the only way to
really understand your child’s problems. Gardner (1977, p. 42) talks of
something called the “oedipal phase.” He explains that this occurs between
ages three and five. “This is the period... when a child develops a strong
possessive attachment to the opposite-sexed parent.” Gardner says that “at
times the attraction can take on mildly sexual overtones toward the
opposite-sexed parent...”, but “the sexual desires are generally not for
intercourse, the child being too young to appreciate that act.” He explains
that “if a boy begins sleeping in Mother’s bed thoughout the night, an a
continual basis, the likelihood that oedipal problems will arise is great...
this holds true for a father and daughter when they are the ones who remain
together following the separation”(p. 91). Learning of this has raised my
concerns for my son. His mother lets him sleep with her every night, and she
believes nothing is wrong with the arrangement. This is a factor I will deal
with on my own, as soon as I figure out what to do. Continuing on to early
elementary age, children’s understanding becomes more apparent. DeBorg (1997)
says that children “begin to understand what divorce is,” and “understand
that her or his parents won’t live together anymore and that they may not love
each other as before.” Reactions, as she describes, could include feelings of
deception and a sense of loss. Children have “hopes that parents will get back
together,” and “feel rejected by the parent who left.” Children of this
age can have symptoms of illness like “loss of appetite, sleep problems,
diarrhea” and may “complain of headaches or stomach aches.” DeBorg does
not list any ways of curving these symptoms of illness, however she does list
some strategies for helping these children adjust. She writes, “encourage the
child to talk about how he or she feels; answer all questions about changes...;
and reassure the child.” From my standpoint, these ideas hold true regardless
of the situation. You should always encourage your children to talk about there
feelings and always take them seriously. A word of advice: Children can adjust
to divorce. It is years of subsequent fighting between their parents, or an
inappropriate child custody plan that can take a terrible toll” (Olsen, 1998).
So if you want to help your children succeed, then help them adjust to your
divorce together; mom and dad. Never let them feel that they cannot have a
relationship with the other parent if at all possible.

BibliographyGardner, R. A. (1977). The Parents Book About Divorce. Garden City, NY:
Doubleday & Company, Inc. Buchanan, C. M., Maccoby, E. E., & Dornbusch,
S. M. (1996). Adolescents After Divorce. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press. DeBorg, K. (1997). Focus on Kids: The Effects of Divorce On Children.
http://www.nncc.org/child.dev/effectsdivorce.html Olsen, P. (1998). Child
Custody Savvy. http://www.savvypsych.com/
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