Navigating the Negative Behaviors of Children During Divorce
Divorce is a challenging time where often parents must navigate the negative behaviors of children. Many children do not have the emotional capacity to understand why a divorce is happening, what it means, and how they should feel. They can become lost in an emotional abyss during the process, misbehaving because of disconnect and confusion. While a parent cannot control the emotions a child may face, there are things a parent can do to help ease the divorce process for the child.
First off, parents should try to keep the home as normal as possible, even with one of the spouses potentially moving out. Keeping up with an established schedule can benefit the entire family. For example, the family always ate dinner together at 6:30–this should continue during and after the divorce. One parent may be absent, but the schedule gives the child some consistency.
Additionally, parents should be tremendously careful and stay optimistic to try and mitigate the negative behaviors of children. Kids perceive the world by the interactions that they witness from their parents. Observing destructive behaviors from parents will encourage the child to behave in the same destructive manner. Nonetheless, even if the parent stays positive, a child may still disobey but be unaware of why they are acting in a disapproving way. To correct negative behaviors of children, parents should aim to stay consistent with rules and punishments. It is counterproductive for one parent to be more lenient, and the other parent to be extremely strict. Communication and consistency are crucial.
Furthermore, parents should aim to be role models for the child, working on their own emotions and stresses as they urge their child to do the same. It is important to have open communication with the child. Parents should encourage the youngster to speak about personal feelings and constructively provide compassion towards the child’s feelings. Phrases such as, “I understand that you feel __; however, next time try ____ to cope with that feeling” can help keep a positive and respectful tone that will inspire the child to do the same.
Most of the behavioral and emotional issues that children present during divorce are temporary. Once the situation calms down, the problems should subside. Nonetheless, if a child’s behavior does not improve, or gets worse, parents should seek professional advice. School counselors and therapists are trained to help children navigate their emotions through age-appropriate activities that may result in one-on-one or entire family sessions.