Children in the early grades of elementary school are struggling to fit into two worlds – home and school. Her intellect is expanding rapidly and she is learning how the world operates. He is developing a sense of humor but is terrified at being laughed at by his peers. Divorce unsettles this newfound independence with this life at school and outside the family. Fear may cause them to revert back to a younger developmental stage with bed-wetting, thumb sucking and clinging to a toddler blanket or infant stuffed toy.
Effects on the 6, 7 and 8 year-old
- Has trouble concentrating
- May lose a year of school
- Is angry and cranky – will take it out on peers
- Worries parent may leave him
- Has no concept of distance – worries incessantly about where other parent lives
- Inner voice is dominated by deep sorrow
- Worries about parent who left
Who will cook for him?
Wash his clothes?
Who will carry out her trash?
- Blames self – is sure divorce is their fault
- Is shocked a divorce is happening even if there has been fighting and shouting
Will mommy get another family?
Will daddy get another little boy?
Tips for parents
- Set up visitation schedule as soon as possible
- Set up consistent routines in your home
- Notify teachers, child care and church classes about the separation
- Work with teachers on child’s behavior (lack of attention, aggression, etc.)
Be your child’s advocate at school
Follow through at home with support
Celebrate good reports
- Tell your child several times the divorce is not their fault
- Reassure child of your love for him or her
- Provide lots of physical affection and attention
- Be an in control parent in your home with limits and boundaries
Tips for church workers in accommodating the 6, 7 and 8 year-old child
- Don’t be afraid to talk with the child about the divorce
- Show genuine concern for the child
- Develop greeting ritual – let child choose
- Always tell child goodbye using a special hand shake you’ve developed
- Realize child may miss every other week
- Tap into sense of humor and provide funny jokes
- Enjoy their silliness and laugh with them
- Comfort them in their sorrow
- Be sensitive to their particular situation in their interpretation of bible stories
Communicate with the single parent and reassure them you are holding both their child and them up in prayer. Ask parent’s permission to contact the child during the week through text, cards, email, phone call or even an occasional visit. Check in periodically with the parent to see how things are going at home and at school. Keep in mind single parents are busy people but many will appreciate an opportunity to talk about their children and the problems they are having. Provide resources that might help them parent their child through the divorce process and develop an emotionally healthy single parent home.
What experiences have you had with the 6, 7 or 8 year-old child experiencing the divorce of their parents?