Most Texas parents who divorce worry about the impact on their children. Because school-age children and teens may be likely to express their feelings clearly on the matter, parents may be more focused on them than on younger children.
However, toddlers (whom the American Academy of Pediatrics defines as children between 1 and 3 years old) feel the change as well. They may not be able to verbalize their feelings, but they can certainly express them in their behavior.
Toddlers are in a period where they need attachment and bonding. When one parent leaves, it’s not uncommon for a toddler to feel abandoned. He may react to that parent aggressively and/or express extra neediness when they are together.
One parenting and human behavior expert provides some recommendations for helping ensure that toddlers feel loved and secure amidst a break-up. In fact, expressions of love are more important than ever at a time like this.
Give your toddler a stable, scheduled routine. This applies no matter which home the child is in and which parent he or she is with.
Be careful how you and your estranged spouse talk to each other in front of your child. Don’t fight or criticize your ex to others in front of him or her. Don’t complain about your ex to the child or burden him or her with your feelings. Parents may not realize how much their toddler understands or how conflicted and stressful this can make him or her feel.
It’s important to have age-appropriate conversations with your little one about what is happening. This should begin before one parent moves out. It’s essential to reassure the child that he or she has nothing to do with the break-up and that you both love him or her. Let your child express his or her feeling about the break-up to you as well as to others. If the child feels that he or she needs to keep his or her feelings bottled up, the child is more likely to have emotional problems.
Reassure your toddler that although you and his other parent no longer wish to live together, you both love him or her. Talk with your toddler about his or her concerns and allow the child to talk to others. Secrets are suppressed feelings that can cause emotional problems.
These things can be challenging if you and your spouse are involved in a child custody dispute. However, no matter what battles you and your spouse are having, they should not make their way home to your child.
Source: Huffington Post, “How to Help Your Toddler Through Your Divorce” Dr. Gail Gross, Mar. 17, 2015