Easing The Impact Of A Messy Divorce
When divorce between parents has not been amicable, it is the only child who is impacted the most. Without a sibling to share the burden or ease his pangs, an only child’s experience of divorce is significantly higher than other children. Being the pivotal point of both parents, the only child often gets embroiled in custodial issues and may be pointed out by the parents as being the sole cause for the continued interaction between the estranged spouses.
A pertinent question parents should ask themselves is, “Do you love to hate each other more than you love your child?” Parents who are yet to come to terms with the harshness of divorce need to understand that placing their grievances against the spouse and mutual animosity on their child may deeply affect the emotional well being of the child.
New challenges and new adjustments
Divorce is a time for new challenges and adjustments, not just for you but more importantly for your child too. Divorce is a painful phase which may affect your ability to be good parent. If anything you have to be more available for your only child during this phase.
Making up through play and talk
The custodial parent may be facing a variety of pressures such as setting up a new home, assuming additional duties, which was hitherto done by the other spouse or maybe moving from a full-time job to a part-time arrangement. In the midst of this the single parent may find it extremely hard to act normally with her only child.
Beatrice, who was going through a painful divorce, confesses- “I came in after a hard day’s work to find the house in a mess and a list of chores waiting to be done. I found my son Bob playing ball inside the house. On top of that he insisted that I play with him. I simply flew off my handle.”
An only child may still be reeling under the loss of the parent-child contact time. When the custodial parent spends lesser and lesser time with the child owing to external pressures, the only child is impacted the most. In this case, a sibling may have proved immensely useful by giving each other company and a sense of “family” even when a parent is absent. Setting aside regular time for talk and play with your child and fixing weekly outings where your entire attention will be focused on the child can greatly ease emotional pressure on both of you.
Helpful relatives can bridge the gap
Does your child’s favorite aunt fall on your husband’s side of the family? What should one do when your child misses his cousins who are related to your embittered spouse?
In the absence of a sibling and the other parent, your child may be engulfed by a feeling of “loss of family” and may want to make up by reaching out to the extended family.
It may not be an easy task for you to get in touch with your spouse’s side of the family, especially during or after divorce. You could be straightforward and let them know that your child is missing them and divorce need not mean separation from the rest of the family too. Most relatives would hasten to comfort the child and ease his anxiety. Fix up times with these favorite relatives of your child’s whom he misses. Keep the family contacts and allow your child interactions with the extended family.
Stick to routines
A new environment and a new household need not necessarily mean a new set of routines. As far as possible stick to your old way of life. Do not bring in an atmosphere of “your way” of bringing up a child versus “your spouse’s” way of bringing up a child. “My son asked me if it was okay to go to bed without brushing. That was a ritual Mark was very particular about. For a moment, I was tempted to say it was okay, but I insisted that he brush his teeth, not only because it is a good habit but also to give him the safety net of an old and familiar routine”, says Donna mother of an eight-year old only child.
Stay in control
Children usually become silent, withdrawn and “good” in order to stay out of trouble or they become difficult, loud and rambunctious in order to seek attention. While you are coming to grips with the reality of divorce, of two households and the pressure of being a single parent, you may feel too stretched to monitor your child’s behavior or maintain rules and regulations.
But more than ever, it is in this transition period that you have to show your child that old rules of discipline and good behavior still holds good.
If he has definite TV watching hours, regular tasks at home like folding the laundry or putting out the garbage and if he has strict no’s about eating junk food- make sure you stick to those rules. It is important to retain an old sense of familiarity even in the new order of things.
A period of transition is also a period of transformations. Staying in control and staying focused on the needs of your only child can ease the impact of divorce and help you and your child to get back on your feet faster and with lesser hardships.