Divorce and Development
Throughout our lives we grow physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. This growth is more obvious physically than any of the other three. From birth to about eighteen we see humans growing more or less constantly, with spurts and delays as part of a general trend to becoming fully physically developed.
While it's invisible, emotional development follows the same general pattern as physical.Given the right environment both the physical and emotional forms will develop in healthy ways.When we pay attention we find the object of our attention shifting, expanding becoming more and more sophisticated.This growth process, and here we're looking at emotional growth, will be ongoing unless there is an event or series of events preventing the growth from continuing.
Emotional development generally stalls when there is conflict in the family serious enough to lead to divorce. The parents who are going through the divorce face the parenting task of providing for the children enough safety, predictability and freedom of expression that the children's emotional well being will find it's way out of their little hearts and into the world where it can be taken care of.
The greatest danger and the most natural response for children of divorce is to develop ways of protecting themselves from the emotional destruction the parents haven't been able to control.The danger in developing protections lies in the children's lack of experience and understanding what is good for them long term.Because they're children, depending partly on their developmental ages and stages, they won't have experience in navigating the confusion. fear. guilt and abandonment of having their parents split up.
Middle development children (6-10) very often feel to blame for what has happened.Usually they have been party to and often caught in arguments and faultfinding..If one parent has been an aggressor and the other a victim, the child may take on one of those roles to at least have one person to side with.Or they might use one of those tactics to deal with both parents.You may see your child become withdrawn or aggressive toward you, your spouse, or their siblings.
When children find themselves in danger,like any animal, they revert to basic instincts.These behaviors of self protection take many different forms.
Children newborn to extreme crying, sleeplessness, fears, physical symptoms
Children 2-4 shyness,anger,acting out,aggression
Children 4-6 social isolation,neediness,anger,sibling rivalry (extreme), fear of abandonment,school avoidance,downturn in creativity,manipulation thru anger, withdrawal,physical illnesses,overeating,nightmares, itching,rashes,stomach pains
Children 6-8 social isolation,neediness,anger,sibling rivalry (extreme),fear of abandonment,school avoidance,downturn in creativity,manipulation thru anger, withdrawal,physical illnesses,school phobia,staying in their rooms,addictive behaviors, fear of sleeping alone
Children 8-10 extreme emotionality including isolative behaviors; nightmares, itching, rashes, stomach pains.
Speaking of Feelings