The family: divorce and children

The family: divorce and children
We could define the family as the union of people who share a vital project of existence that is supposed to be lasting, in which strong feelings of belonging to that group are generated, in which there is a personal commitment between its members and intense relationships are established. intimacy, reciprocity and dependence.

However, couple relationships do not always end well, and many times both members are in need of divorce for the common good. But... what about the children? In this article we talk about family: divorce and children.

What is the family: definition and implications of the concept

Since we were born, the family has become the main support and support group. It begins with the behavior of attachment as soon as it is born, and ends with the possibility that the family offers us to access the resources that society offers us. In this sense, we can say that the family group fulfills a series of functions with respect to their children, which would be the following:

  • Ensure their survival , their growth and their socialization in the basic behaviors of communication, dialogue and symbolization.
  • Provide their children with a climate of affection and support without which healthy psychological development would not be possible.
  • Provide children with the necessary stimulation to relate competently with their physical and social environment, as well as the ability to respond to the demands and demands posed by their adaptation to the world they have to live.
  • Make decisions regarding openness to other educational contexts that will share with the family the task of educating the child.

Divorce: definition and types

It is in the sixties when an approximate estimate of the number of divorces begins to occur in both Europe and the United States. Since then and until now it is estimated that parental separations have grown by around 300% and, of course, the main victims of these decisions are usually children.

The divorce and the children

Parental separation or divorce can be considered a traumatic and stressful event for children and that, depending on the attitude expressed by parents before him, can have consequences of one kind or another. With this we refer to the marital conflict that is usually present in the vast majority of marital separations and that represents a high risk factor in the development of psychopathologies in childhood. However, it should be borne in mind that this risk we are targeting depends, to a large extent, on the type of relationship and the number of conflicts that the marriage develops during the process; as well as the way in which parents communicate the decision to their children.

Types of divorce

The end of a marriage is a hard process, both for the couple and for the rest of the family, but here the children are the most vulnerable, since they see the concept of a support group that represents the family bosom and of which we have Spoken in the introduction of the article. All this is due to the great structural and personal change that implies a separation and as a consequence, five types of divorce could be established with different consequences each:

  • Marriage separation or psychic divorce : which involves emotional distancing between the couple, whether they both agree or the decision is taken unilaterally.
  • Legal divorce : the one established before the law and in which measures must be taken with respect to property, children, etc.
  • The divorce of community or social : that supposes the distancing of the members of the couple from the social environment that until then they shared.
  • The divorce of property : in relation to the distribution of goods that occurred in the couple.
  • Dependency divorce : understanding as such an obvious change of roles played from now on.

These five types of divorce will have an impact on children, either directly or indirectly, taking into account the crisis stages that their parents have to face and their resolution regarding the post-divorce relationship between members who Make up the family.

How to communicate parental separation to children

The process of communicating marital separation to children is not an easy step. In the first place, we must never hesitate to make this decision and to bring the children up to date with the obvious change that the family situation will suffer. Of course, it is very important for parents to make adaptations of their speech taking into account the age of their children: the information must be true.

But never aggressive for them. It is a great mistake to consider that hiding the reality of separation from children will benefit them in some cases, since it usually only exacerbates confusion, insecurity and distrust of parents. Ideally, children should be informed of the divorce decision with a margin of time before the non-custodial parent leaves the home (about two or three weeks), but the cohabitation should not be extended together much longer, since otherwise Children can interpret the situation as reconciling or going back.

The ideal climate

The ideal climate to proceed with the communication process would be a situation of calm and in which all members are present : delegating responsibility for communicating the situation to one of the parents will only increase the degree of uncertainty and confusion in the small ones, since rarely the versions of the broken couple usually coincide one hundred percent. It is essential to show children that the decision has been taken jointly and show them a fluid communication avoiding tensions, confrontations and, above all, disqualifications to the other. It is also essential that children be clear that the change in this situation is not in their hands; highlight that the decision is agreed and that there is no going back. Do not leave hopes housed or open doors, the little ones have to start from the zero minute to assume the new situation and face it in an optimal way.

Not give details

Children should never be involved in the details of the breakup, especially if we talk to young children. Giving a general explanation will be sufficient, since otherwise we would cause a higher involvement in the little ones with regard to the causes of separation and, therefore, greater emotional damage. In addition, it is necessary to make clear the type of relationships that are going to be broken (love, marital commitment) and that the filial and fraternal paternal bond will always exist no matter what happens with the marriage.

Let the children express themselves

Once the news is given, it is essential to leave the children time to express what they feel and to answer their questions or questions in the most affordable way possible. We must be understanding of the reactions they may have and, above all, that they perceive warmth and support in order to express their fears and uncertainties with the new situation. From now on, the work of both parents is not going to be easy, since they must somehow find a balance when it comes to educating children in the new reality: they should never show a victimistic attitude towards them or overprotect them in excess, although it is true that excessive uprooting and isolation will also not be beneficial.

The psychological impact of marital separation on children

The psychological impact that the decision of parental separation can have on children depends on numerous factors, including age. Depending on the evolutionary age of the children, the ability to understand the situation will be different and, therefore, their reaction as well.

Preschool age

To this day it is not clear the stage in which children are most vulnerable to this process, but many authors point to preschool age as the most critical , especially considering the level of moral and personal development of children this stage. It is precisely in this stage when children tend to have more symptoms of anxiety, fear of abandonment and self-healing. Also evident are alterations in the game and in the family concept, reflected in artistic productions. We can also observe regressions in the child's behavior (sucking his finger, children's speech, sphincter relaxation, etc.).

School age

In the school stage, symptoms may be closer to depression than to anxiety, although comorbidity is not ruled out in any case. There may be obvious fears of abandonment, as well as obvious behavioral problems shown with both parents, behaviors that are intended to manifest a reaction to the new reality that they have to live and that, in a certain way and within limits, should be allowed in the beginnings It is important that children (at any stage) can express their emotions and frustrations in the face of a decision that will affect them but is beyond their control.

Preteen and adolescence

Preadolescence and adolescence are stages of change at the emotional and psychological level in children, and that is why they can be considered complicated at the level of reactions and coping with the new situation. There may be problems of anxiety, aggressiveness and even identity; although, on the other hand, a withdrawal from the situation can take place taking as a support axis the peer group. They are ages of vulnerability to depression and feelings or attempts of suicide if they fail to empathize with the circumstances presented by parents as motivating the divorce.

General lines of intervention

The proposed intervention from the field of psychology to parental separations can be proposed from several areas of action:
  • The age of the child : first, there is a susceptibility to perform an intervention in the face of emotional and psychological problems that are generated in children as a result of the new family reality. In this case we would take into account the comments made in previous paragraphs regarding the child's age and the symptoms presented in each case. During this process it is essential the assistance and support of parents in all phases of treatment, as well as other relevant family figures who can contribute something in it.
  • Family presence : secondly, it is possible to proceed to an intervention in the family nucleus, if the reactions and behaviors that the child presents are affecting their relationship with one or both parents. In this case, the presence of all family members becomes essential and everyone would become identified patients in the process.
  • Family mediation : Third, and in more extreme cases, family mediation may be necessary. This resource is considered necessary when there are serious conflicts between the dissolved couple, which form a climate of continuous hostility that makes a cordial relationship impossible when dealing with issues related to children. That is why it is considered an intervention based primarily on conflict management, having as a mediator a psychologist who will help both parties to approach positions and seek and prioritize the welfare of children.