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Helping young children through a divorce

Hearing that your parents are splitting up can be difficult at any age, but it can be especially hard for young children, who don't yet understand what it means to fall "out of love."

Many of our clients have young children, and we try to provide them with the resources that they need to help make the divorce process go as smoothly as possible for the entire family.

There are many guides out there for parents going through divorce, and one of the most helpful articles we found had this to say about how divorce affects children at each early stage of life:

Babies

Parents should know that even the youngest children, who have not yet reached the toddler stage, can sense conflict in the home and may become irritable and clingy as a result. A development delay could even occur with constant tension between parents.

If the parents decide to end their marriage, they should remember that consistency and routine are extremely important for babies, who thrive under familiar circumstances. For that reason, parents should maintain normal daily routines -- especially with sleeping and eating -- during and after the divorce.

Toddlers

During the toddler years, kids have a hard time understanding the concept of divorce, and because they are so "self-centered" at this stage of life, they may believe that they are the cause of the breakup. Toddlers could also show signs of regression when dealing with this huge change in their family, such as by having potty accidents or resorting to thumb sucking.

Parents of toddlers should, again, work together to foster a consistent and familiar routine that the children can follow, which is comforting at this age. Parents should also encourage their toddlers to be vocal about their feelings and ensure them that they are not the reason for the divorce.

Preschoolers 

Parents of preschoolers know that their little ones love having "control" over situations, and a divorce can leave them feeling completely out of control. They, too, can feel responsible for the divorce, and they could have anxiety and/or anger over the situation, which they could keep inside.

One important thing for parents of preschoolers to keep in mind is that they will be looking to you to know how to handle the change, so it's very important to talk about the divorce in a positive manner, if possible. It's also very important that children this age are allowed to work through and express their feelings, which can be done with the help of books.

This helpful advice came from an informative Parents.com article, which cites divorcesource.com, American Academy of Pediatrics and American Medical Association as sources. The article also included advice for parents with school-age children.

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