Depending on their age and development, children of divorced parents have different needs. But one need is common across all ages: children of divorce need to know that neither parent will abandon them and that family life with each will continue.
Pre-school-age children’s needs
Very young children need frequent contact with both parents. Even short periods can be reassuring for young children.
They need to be held, fed, bathed, read to, cuddled, played with and spoken to. Changes should be made as gradually as possible. Young children are very dependent and they need caring people to look after them.
School-age children’s needs
School-age children need longer periods with each parent. Sleeping over in each parent’s home helps them to adjust to the loss of the original family unit and helps them to feel at home with both parents.
Six to eight year olds may need special reassurance that they did not cause the divorce. They need permission to love both parents and all the people in their lives who are good to them.
School-age children benefit when both parents are interested and involved in their education and when both parents participate in teacher conferences and special school activities.
Adolescents are striving toward independence. They need:
- activities with other adolescents
- some flexibility so they can reschedule plans with parents
- freedom from overwhelming responsibility for major family decisions
- continued guidance from parents about rules and standards for their behaviour
- parents who act like parents, not like pals
- parents who do not constantly lean on them for moral support
- co-operative parents who encourage them not to take sides
- ongoing contact with both parents to they can experience each parent’s strengths and weaknesses.