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blog home Divorce When to Worry about Changes in Child Behavior after Divorce: Part 1

When to Worry about Changes in Child Behavior after Divorce: Part 1

By Nottage and Ward on September 28, 2012

Children do not respond to divorce in exactly the same way, especially when they are at different ages. But what general behavior is a natural reaction to divorce and what behavior signifies the need for additional intervention, such as therapy and/or counseling? Divorcing parents who don’t know what types of behavior changes to expect can become worried over any change, but not everything is a red flag. In this two-part blog series, the Chicago family law attorneys at Nottage and Ward will discuss when behavior changes are and are not warning signs.

According to an article in The Huffington Post, the following are, generally, the natural behavioral changes that may occur after divorce, from birth through pre-school age.

From birth to 18 months of age, children may be fretful, nervous, and exhibit some developmental delays. Consistent routines, “cuddle time,” and a feeling of security are important. Warning signs at these ages include unresponsiveness, failure to gain weight, or diminished growth.

Toddlers, aged 18 months to three-years-old, may be withdrawn, moody, more attention-seeking, and even fearful. They might also show odd changes in eating and sleeping patterns. Children at this age need both physical and verbal assurance, consistency, and routines. Warning signs for toddlers may include signs of regression such as tantrums and bed-wetting.

Children of pre-school age, specifically between three and five-years-old, have a hard time understanding the concept of a divorce and may feel like it was their fault. They may not want to separate from parents, fearing that one or both of them won’t come back. Pre-school aged children need reassurance that their parents will come back. Reading age-appropriate books about divorce to them may help them open up about their feelings.

Once children get older, things can get more complicated, but certain behavioral changes are expected and there are ways in which parents can help diffuse potentially damaging situations and behaviors.

Please check back next week for Part 2 of our blog series where we discuss the behavioral changes that may occur in elementary through high-school-aged children after divorce.

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