Divorce Child, a work by Javad Alizadeh, Irani...
Divorce Child, a work by Javad Alizadeh, Iranian artist.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When children see their parents going through a divorce, they can react in many different ways. They can withdraw into themselves or they can exhibit bad behaviour which is difficult to deal with at a time when the parents may be very stressed or at a low ebb physically and mentally. There are strategies to help deal with tantrums, aggression and rudeness, but it takes team work between the parents and other family members.There may also have to be a compromise when it comes to discipline.

Throughout this difficult time, it’s important to see things from the child’s point of view. Children in a situation like this are going through a trauma. The family is breaking up and this is traumatic for everyone but especially for the children. It often leads to deep insecurities that show themselves in aggression, mood swings, bad language and rudeness. When parents let their own anger and bitterness affect their children, things can go from bad to worse.

Try to understand how your children feel. That’s a big ask, but it is essential. Children always feel that because their parents have parted, they are in someway to blame for it. They often fear that the parents may stop loving them because they have stopped loving each other. They feel scared that they might have to choose which parents to live with and feel lost and abandoned when one parent moves out. Bad behaviour can be a cry for help. Children needs to be reassured and know that both parents still love them and that they will never leave them.

However, bad behaviour need not be excused. If you as a parent feel bad about what has happened, it will not help your child to excuse bad behaviour. It won’t make them feel better, if you let them get away with things. Giving in all the time will erode your authority and make children feel even more insecure. They must be able to rely on you as a parent and to know that you are still strong and able to make decisions on their behalf  and for their own good. So gently ticking them off and explaining that you will not tolerate bad behaviour is a proactive thing to do.

Some parents use the good cop/bad cop system when they were a family unit. This doesn’t work after a split. One parents may be too easy going while the other ups the discipline, causing confusion and unhappiness for the children. Parents must sit down and discuss how they will work together and compromise, so that the children feel secure with both of them.

It doesn’t matter what has happened between the two parents, they must present a united front to the kids. This applies to the relationship between the children and any grandparents, too. It is imperative to rise above any bitterness and not criticize the ex-partner or ex-grandparents because to do this just upsets and confuses the children.

Divorce has long-term effects for families. Staying civilised and reasonable is the only way to make sure that children come out of a painful and potentially harmful event without too much long-term damage. Parents need to draw upon all their resources and stay mature and cooperative when making decisions about their children. After all, you may divorce each other but you cannot divorce your children.