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The Child’s Grieving Response In Divorce Proceedings: Introduction

Just as you grieve during a divorce, children do too.  Even though they grieve, they may also feel considerable relief when fighting stops and anger no longer defines the atmosphere of their home.  However, children and adults grieve differently.  Children are more likely to feel abandoned and unsure of how their lives will change when one parent leaves the home.  For example, “If Mommy left me, is Daddy leaving me too?”

Unlike adults, children cannot keep up long periods of grief, so their grief will often resurface at random, irregular times.  Flashbacks of grief can be triggered by specific situations.  Some examples are:  a family gathering where Daddy used to always grill the steaks or a school play attended by only one parent when other children have both parents attending and sitting together like Mommy and Daddy used to do.

Children also tend to release their strong emotions surrounding the divorce, often in a turbulent and disruptive manner.  Parents can be bewildered by the child’s misconduct, because it is often difficult to tie it to any particular current circumstance.  Consider that divorcing parents often have a hard enough time dealing wit and expressing their own conflicting emotions about the divorce and then think about how a child might do the same thing.  It isn’t surprising that children are far less equipped emotionally to understand their flip-flops in mood and behavior.  Many of these reactions are common in children and don’t necessarily mean your child needs professional help.