Children’s emotions around divorce and holidays

For some, Halloween is the start of the holiday season. And while this time of year can be stressful for anyone, for children whose parents are either going through a divorce, or were just recently divorced, this time of year can bring up a wide range of emotions and corresponding behaviors.

Priscilla J. Dunstan, who is a child and parenting behavior expert, breaks down how some children of divorced parents may react around the holidays based on the senses. In her breakdown, each child leans more toward one sense than the others.

For example, in a child that is auditory — or always asking their parent a ton of questions — silence would be a sign that something is wrong, and that the child may be stressed or worried about something related to the divorce. For this type of child, a clear schedule of how the holidays are going to go would be a good start. Additionally, it’s also important to create a space for the child to be able to share what is on their mind.

In children who are more tactile, when worrying about their parents’ divorce, they are more likely to be physically aggressive. In small children this would show itself as less sharing and more pushing, combined with a constant need for affection from their caregiver.

For tactile children, spending time together, and making sure they feel secure and in an environment where they can share their concerns about where they will be for the holidays, and who will be there, can greatly help the child adjust.

Some children are also more visual, and if they are stressed about the divorce, they may appear to be more obsessive about how things look. Another concern may also stem around a holiday outing only including only one side of the family. To try and lessen the stress, it’s a good idea to keep everything as inclusive as possible, and maybe even create a photo album that includes the holiday events from both sides of the families.

Lastly, for those children who are more of taste and smell, this could be an emotional time with a lot of tears and over-reacting. For these children it is also quite normal for them to internalize and feel responsible for outside events. For these children it’s important that both parents let the child know that things are going to be OK.

Source: Kansas City Star, “Child sense: Helping your child deal with divorce during the holiday season,” Priscilla J. Dunstan, Oct. 31, 2011

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