The Titanic’s passengers conducted themselves politely and calmly during the two-plus hours of their nightmare. Many men stoically stood by, ready to face their own deaths, as half-empty lifeboats swung away with only women and children in them. The Lusitania’s passengers, by contrast, fought each other to survive the 20-minute sinking. Why did one group of passengers follow accepted rules and manners, while the other group reverted to primal instincts of self-preservation? Time. The amount of time allowed Titanic’s passengers to maintain social order; Lusitania’s quick sinking stripped away every social fabric, leaving only panic. If you see some abnormal behaviors in your child during your divorce, time is one of several tools you can use to better manage those behaviors.
Are You Overwhelming Your Children with Information?
As experts of Live Science indicate, human behavior is neither random nor inexplicable. Your child acts out during a divorce because events, like the sinking of a seemingly “unsinkable” ocean liner, come at her too fast. She is overwhelmed by feelings and circumstances. She may lash out, become depressed, or get uncharacteristically sassy.
Some parents choose to project their own feelings and concerns onto their children during divorce. Kids react to this predictably, by chafing against the unnatural and uncomfortable weight of emotions you, not they, feel. Depending on their age, you can prevent depressive reactions by slowing down the process of explaining the divorce. Keep information simple, in small doses. Think about the information you share; is it to unburden yourself, or clarify news for your kids?
When you overwhelm your children with your own sorrow, anger, frustration or fear, you are pulling a Lusitania on them. Back off. Give them room to process their own feelings and you will likely see some of the behavior issues subside.
Are You There to Listen, Counsel, and Reinforce?
Supposedly, as the Titanic sank, the band played on. True or not, it shows the value of being there. Simply being available to your child, to listen without judgment, can have a valuable, pacifying effect. As the experts at Kid’s Health say, children may not react right away. They may bury some of their feelings, or show stress in other ways:
- Misbehaving at school
- Breaking up with friends
- Not sleeping at night
- Changing appetite
Be ready to sit and listen when your child is ready, not on your schedule. Until your child finds her or his voice, reinforce routines. Dr. Peter L. Stavinoha, Ph. D., says kids seek stability when you and your wife shatter their norms. So, keep to your system of discipline, rewards, punishments, and praise.
Are You Taking Time to Grieve with Them?
You and your wife are divorcing; your children are not. They are losing the unity of their family and deserve your respect as they grieve this loss. From your perspective, parting ways with their mother is a vacation, but for them, it is a crushing loss. You need to honor that and grieve with them. Try these:
- Listen without judging or waiting to respond
- Help them find words for their emotions
- Encourage them to be honest about their feelings, even negative feelings toward you
- Mirror back those feelings, so they know they have been heard and seen
Are You Giving in Too Much to Outbursts?
Part of children’s behavior is experimental, to see how adults react. If you climb on their emotional roller coaster as they go from angry to sad to oddly deliriously happy, you cede control of the situation.
Try to present an even emotional response to their mood swings and unexpected outbursts. Your children will goad you; avoid assigning blame for the divorce. They will provoke fights; avoid equating their behavior with their mother’s. They will claim the world is ending; make sure, for them, it is not.
Here are a few ways to climb off that emotional roller coaster:
- Look at the bigger picture — Remember, this, too, shall pass; look to the horizon and see yourself (and your kids) happy and at peace
- Think before acting or speaking — Calm yourself; bite your tongue; breathe deeply
- Find a confidante — Just not your children or ex-wife
- Change your scenery — Take yourself and the kids away to a new spot where you can contemplate your new circumstances, discuss everyone’s emotions, and establish new traditions
- Move on
Some older kids will attempt to triangulate you and your divorcing wife. They will blatantly seek favors and indulgences. Quash that. It creates unrealistic expectations for their futures, and replaces genuine love with materialism.
Better, trade time for toys, listening for loot. Make certain your kids know you love them unconditionally, and encourage their love for you without strings (or wallets) attached.
Call on The Only Family Law Firm in Virginia for Men Only
With a call to The Firm For Men at 757-383-9184, or a contact online, you can be put in touch with a family law attorney who can provide wise counsel about divorce, your children, and more. We have worked with many Virginia men facing circumstances similar to what you are going through; we stand ready to help you into that lifeboat.