Often when a family goes through a divorce or another major life crisis, it may feel for a while like nothing is “certain.” Perhaps no one feels this more than the children, especially since their lives are basically being deeply affected without their permission. If you need to move to a new neighborhood in the aftermath of the breakup, the sense of uncertainty and anxiety can be that much more acute.
The good news is that research shows that children tend to be resilient. With your love and steady support, they can make the transition with relatively little long-term effects. If you’re thinking of changing neighborhoods and/or schools where your kids attend, here are 6 potential consequences for the children… and what you can do to soften the blow.
1. Children may feel anxious
Any big life change causes stress, whether you’re a kid or a grown-up. However, an adult likely has some experience with moving, while a child doesn’t have that advantage—so the anxiety can be magnified.
How you can help: Be emotionally present as much as possible. Allow the child to express his/her feelings; then offer comfort. If you feel anxiety personally over the move, don’t project that anxiety to the children. Find somewhere else to vent it. Keep things positive and upbeat for their sake.
2. Children may feel powerless
Remember, the kids didn’t have any say in whether their parents decided to break up. Whenever a major life change happens to kids, it creates a sense of powerlessness.
How you can help: First, give your children permission to express their feelings in a constructive manner—it’s normal for them to be upset. Second—knowledge is power, so give your kids a chance to know as much as possible about the new move, the new neighborhood, and the new school. Take them to the school for a tour; let them meet teachers and the principal. The more they understand about the changes happening around them, the more empowered they will feel.
3. Children may feel loss
This article in healthychildren.org makes the following point: “Children tend to think about the negative side when a family moves. There is the loss of friends and, along with it, loss of a sense of belonging.” This loss is of course intensified if divorce is a factor in the move.
How you can help: Change can be a positive thing, even under negative circumstances—so focus on the positive. Talk to your kids about the advantages of their new home and new school. If you’re moving to a new city, the children may have the opportunity to experience a new way of life; if a child struggled in her old school, it’s a moment for her to start fresh. Look for ways to show the children the “bright side.”
4. Children may feel isolated
This feeling can be especially poignant if your family and your children were well connected in your previous community. Saying goodbye to deeply rooted relationships can result in intense feelings of loneliness and emptiness during the transition.
How you can help: Become a part of the new community yourself. Become active with the new neighborhood, join the P.T.A., meet the parents, and get to know your children’s new classmates as much as possible. By getting involved in the social life of your new community, you enable your children to reconnect socially as well.
5. Children may “act out”
Sometimes during major transition, a child may feel some things deeply but not really know how to express them. This dynamic can cause a number of behaviors or symptoms that may include bedwetting, baby talk, or even withdrawn or aggressive behavior, according to this article in the Huffington Post.
How you can help: Start by having frequent conversations with your children; try to get them to communicate their feelings. If they have trouble doing so but continue to show unusual behavior patterns, it might be time to have them talk with a children’s therapist to help them through the process.
Changing schools and changing neighborhoods can be hard on children, but with your love and support, they can get through it. That being said, the kids aren’t the only ones who need support during this time. If you need effective counsel and legal representation concerning a divorce, my team and I are here to assist with your needs. Contact the Law Offices of Silky Sahnan today at 925-276-0789 to schedule your confidential consultation.