No parent wants her child to grow up in a broken family. But some marriages don't work out no matter how hard the couple tries to keep the family together and whole. Once a couple decides to separate, they have a tough task ahead of them — preparing the kids for the transition.
In the Philippines where there is no divorce law, many couples decide to "postpone" a separation because of their kids. There is no easy way to tell them mom and dad will live in separate houses. It's confusing, painful, and makes the kids feel helpless. No one wants this stress on their children, so parents wait until the kids are "old enough" to understand what's happening. But is there even a "right" age to do it?
There are those who point out separation is better when the kids are young, so they'll have "no memory" of the separation. But, as child psychologist Dr. Scott Carroll points out to Fatherly, 2-year-olds have memories. "They're aware of the change on an emotional level rather than a cognitive level."
But Dr. Caroll concedes a separation may be less traumatic — relatively — to toddlers. "Probably the only ages where you would say [a parents' split] has no meaningful impact [to a child is if he or she] under 2...an attachment figure is not there."
According to Dr. Carroll, if there is such a thing as the worst age for a child to go through a parents separation, it is 11 years old when he hits puberty. While it's the age where a child's bond with his parents is well-established, she is also battling for independence and struggling with self-esteem that's often tied to body image. A family offers him security and protects him from peer pressure. A change in his family's status quo can be devastating.
Again, the impact of a parents' separation is not less when a child is 3 or 16. Factors like resilience and his ability to adapt to change matter. Dr. Carroll cites that it's how the parents handled the split that has a significant effect on the child.
Three things you and your estranged spouse should never do:
ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
a parent talks ill of the other parent in front of the child
a parent refuses to let her child spend with the other parent; or
a parent turns into an absentee parent because they couldn't agree on a visitation schedule, child support, etc.
A parent is a child's most influential role model. If things don't work out between spouses, it's their responsibility to smoothen the family's transition. And that more likely to happen if a couple works together, using clear and better communication.
It's easier said than done. If it helps, don't hesitate to consult a marriage counselor, even if it's to iron out details of the separation. One simple but effective tip: it's easier if parents prioritize the child's interest in everything else.