Dr. Diane Sacks, president of the Canadian Paediatric Society, joined Balance Television host Dr. Marla Shapiro to talk about helping kids cope with their parents' separation and divorce.
There are expected differences you can see depending on the age of the child during the breakup. Sacks said children begin attachment issues at a very young age, and although for infants it's primarily with the mother during nurturing and breastfeeding, there are certainly lots of attachment issues infants will do with fathers.
"I have seen small babies stop feeding and become much more irritable when divorce and separation issues come about," Sacks said. "The young child, the toddler, also begins to regress. There might be the child who was starting to train, starting to talk, and then all of a sudden you see the thumb is back in the mouth and the talking is regressing to just babbling again."
Those issues as well as anger and fantasy are typical in pre-school and early school age kids. When you get to pre-teen age, you see real anger and guilt about the whole thing, Sacks said.
"I think guilt is universal, the early children will say, 'I was bad so Daddy left' or 'Had I been better, Dad would have stayed,'" Sacks explained.
She also noted that divorced or separated couples can still perform parenting duties together without confusing the child, as long as the truth is constantly reinforced.
"Routine and schedule are essential for all parenting and it becomes more important when parents are in two different places," she said.
What parents need to do is communicate with their kids and keep negativity about the former spouse out of the equation. Kids don't need to hear their parents' fears, angst or anger.
Most importantly help is out there for parents trying to raise children during separation or divorce. There are good organizations, books, reference texts and people who have already lived through this tough situation. So don't be afraid to look for help.
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