Children and divorce

Child development:when parents divorce

The child development of an emotional attachment to a primary care giver in the first six years of life is very important. A disturbance in this development can create problems in childhood, adolescence, and adult life. Behaviors fundamental to personal and interpersonal well-being are involved. Examples of these are:

  • the ability to create deep and enduring love relationships,
  • the strength to tolerate the imperfect satisfaction of personal needs,
  • the attitudes and desire that lead to cooperation with others, and
  • the motivation to learn and work.

The course of these processes is set in the early years of life by the quality of the attachment bond that is established then.

Divorce and separation affect the lives of each family member. A variety of deep emotional wounds are created before, during, and after a divorce or separation.

Many battles begin when a marriage breaks up. None is more destructive to all concerned than the fight for custody and/or visitation rights. Father and mother struggle to determine the conditions under which they can spend time with their children. Attorneys and judges offer their partisan advice and pronounce their judgments.

Decisions that favor either the father or the mother are considered; sometimes a compromise is reached between their competing interests.

Child development:child's point of view

However, good decisions honor the child development needs and respect the child's point of view. Frequently parents are unable to look beyond their own individual interests. To minimize severe problems, adults must give the well-being of their child development importance and consideration.

The child from birth to six is by nature vulnerable.

During divorce and separation, the child's emotional well-being is at considerable risk. It is important to ensure the child has continuous and ready access to the parent with whom the child has developed an emotional attachment. That parent is usually the mother.

Studies point out patterns of behavior that build a child's secure attachment to a primary caregiver. These are:

  • loving physical contact between the adult and child,
  • the caregiver' regular ability to soothe the child by holding
  • the caregiver's sensitivity to the child's signals and the ability to time interventions in harmony with the child's rhythms,
  • the mutual delight the adult and child have by being in each other's company, and
  • the creation of an environment that permits the child to derive a sense of the consequences of his or her own actions.

When parents provide these elements to the young child, they create a foundation for an emotionally healthy life. In addition, they build into the child's personality a resilience that in future years will enable the individual to cope with life's problems and challenges successfully.

Child development:normal dependency period

Of all primates, human beings have the longest period of normal developmental dependency. The child-rearing practices of both intact families and families suffering from separation and divorce often overlook this fact.

The profoundly important needs of the young child are too frequently ignored or inadequately met. Decisions that have a significant impact on the life of the young child are regularly made by parents and other adults who are not properly informed to make those decisions.

When judges, mediators, and parents make decisions that give paramount consideration to the welfare of the vulnerable young child, they can limit the damage caused by divorce and separation. The effects of these decisions last a lifetime.

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