Young children also experience the effects of their parents’ divorce. In fact, they experience many of the same feelings that older kids do except that it’s harder to pin it down as stemming from the divorce. The best way to help your younger children during a divorce is to try to provide a calm, loving, united front with the other parent toward your kids of all ages.
Separation Anxiety Issues
Many young kids don’t know how to deal with “visiting” and being apart from one parent to be with the other. Don’t take their reactions personally. Instead, just understand that it will take time for them to get used to the new way things are done. Take all changes slowly, giving them time to become accustomed to the new way of doing things.
Mood Swings and Irritability
Young kids often don’t have the vocabulary to deal with a divorce or their intense feelings. These can come out of the child as severe mood swings, crying, fit throwing, and all-out meltdowns. If your child is newly experiencing these intense emotions, just be there for them and let them know it’s not their fault. Give them the words to talk about their feelings.
Some children who have already been potty trained might regress and start wetting the bed again. Don’t react harshly about this because they don’t want to do it either. Instead, help them with pull-ups and if they are verbal at all, try to help them talk about their feelings.
Not Eating Well
If your child is not wanting to eat or is wanting to eat more, this may be a reaction to what is going on in the home. Try to avoid giving food as a reward or using food as a punishment to prevent children from using food the same way. If they are doing that, you may want to talk to a counselor to stop it getting worse.
Many kids will experience nightmares during any time of transition, growth, or change. This is relatively normal for humans but if the nightmares are every night and intense, you may want to talk to a child counselor to get help dealing with it.
Like nightmares, other sleep issues can happen too. For example, if your child started sleepwalking during your divorce and did not previously do so, you may want to consider that your child is stressed out due to the divorce and may need help dealing with their fears and emotions.
If you note any of these symptoms in your young children, the best way to deal with it is to work with your ex-spouse on keeping a similar schedule for the child. The fewer disruptions to how things have always been and the slower you make changes, the easier it will be for them to cope. Also, even if you don’t think they understand, let them know that mommy and daddy will always love them, and nothing about this is their fault.