CHILDREN AND DIVORCE.

The effects of separation and divorce are extremely significant for children as rapid developmental changes in the cognitive, emotional and social development take place in early childhood. Disruption can have lasting consequences on the child's well-being and adjustment in later years.

Divorce and separation often lead children to experience intense emotions. Misconceptions about the divorce and loyalty conflicts are experienced by children. Most children do not have the necessary social skills to express their thoughts and feelings with their parents due to various factors.

Separation and divorce have been associated with a decline in most children's academic achievements, self-concept and often lead to adjustment problems.

In the early years babies function best with parents who are reliable, responsive and sensitive to the infants personal needs. Given that their sense of time and memory is not yet mature, babies should spend time frequently with both parents so that strong attachment relationships can be established. When children grow older each parent should continue to be actively involved in their child's caring tasks, education, discipline and play.

Children of cooperative parents who minimize their children's exposure and involvement in conflict and who provide a stable and organised home environment  are much better equipped to cope with the separation. Involvement of siblings and members of the extended family also lead to better adjustment.

Help your child cope with separation and divorce by:

1. Being emotionally sensitive and responsive to the child during transitions to different households.

2. Deal with your own conflicts with the other parent.

3. Prioritise the child's needs.

4. Maintain stable and consistent schedules in the children's life to foster a sense of security.

5. Practice effective co-parenting by working as a team rather than as competitors.

6. If conflict does arise, practice parallel  parenting by minimizing the contact between parents.

7. Show frequent reassurance of love to your child through words, affection, validation and affirmations.

8. Set and enforce clear defined boundaries, limits and guidelines. Discuss them with your child.

9. Encourage open communication in daily activities in which you actively listen, and acknowledge the child's emotions without judgement.

10. Take time before getting involved in new relationships so that the child can get used to the changes associated with the separation.

11. Agree on how major issues will be discussed and resolved.

12. Take care of yourself by improving your parenting skills.

13. Join a support group or go for supportive counselling which will help you with dealing with you own emotions regarding the separation, divorce, and being a single parent.