Without a doubt, one of the most significant events in the life of a young child is the divorce of his/her parents. According to Hughes, Jr. (2009), the effects of divorce on a child are adverse and they are numerous. They have been identified as loss of both a parent and with that parent, the extra income contributed by that parent. This results in the child not being able to have access to many of the essential and non-essential monetary things they had grown accustomed to. In addition to this, divorce can create a very stressful time in the life of the child. Much of this stress can be a resultant of unplanned changes such as changes in residence, school, friends and the like. These changes can be very disruptive in the life of a child, who in many cases, has resided in the same house since birth, has gone to the same school for his/her entire life and has had the same friends for as long as he/she can remember. Moreover, divorce can be a very contentious time—one resulting in frequent conflicts between the divorcing parents. Much of this will be witnessed by the child who will torn between two parents who he/she love very much. Oftentimes those parents will force the child to take sides (Divorce Source, Inc. 2016).
Bruce Perry, M.D., PhD. (2016) purports that children of divorce are in a constant state of crisis during the process of the divorce. They exhibit physiological signs of stress such as rapid heartbeat and breathing and psychological signs such as being in a heighted state of awareness and being extremely excited as well as excitable. Moreover, they can exhibit signs that are similar to those of extreme trauma. Furthermore, Dr. Perry indicates that children of divorce should be treated in the same manner as children who face other traumatic events in their daily lives. With that being said, he suggests that those children be treated utilizing the same methods used to treat children affected by other trauma. In so doing, Dr. Perry purports that the child should be treated as a threatened child and as such, each parent or caregiver should follow when interacting with the child.
The guidelines set forth by Dr. Perry include the following:
Talking to the child about the divorce—this will assist the child in recognizing that divorces are a way of life for some child. In so doing, the child’s feelings relative to the divorce can be dealt with in a proactive manner.
Assure that the child has consistency in his/her life by establishing a daily routine as soon as possible.
Be nurturing, supportive and loving to the child and let him/her know that you are there to talk about anything at any time. This is sometimes tricky because it is often difficult to know when you are overdoing it. It is important for you to take cues from the child.
Discuss the new disciplinary techniques that will be used with the child and assure that both parents come to a consensus on those techniques. Moreover, it is important for the child to understand what behaviors will be expected from him/her going forward.
Observe the child for behaviors that indicate that the child is reliving the trauma.
When possible, assure that the child can control as many elements of his/her life as possible. In so doing, the child would not be left to feel helpless and hopeless.
If possible, the parents should engage in a co-parenting relationship with each other. In so doing, the child will come to the realization that despite the fact that the parents divorced each other, they did not divorce the child.
Overall, when dealing with the dynamics of a divorce and the way in which it affects children, it is very individualistic in nature. It depends on the parents in question, the child and the relationships between the three before, during and after the divorce. There is no specific time period in which each party should recover from the detrimental effects of the divorce and there is no gender-specific recovery. There is one certainty. The effects of divorce on children can be minimized if parents did, in fact, follow the guidelines set forth by Dr. Perry who is a noted expert in the field.