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Can separation affect a child’s self esteem?

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

Yes, separation can have an affect on your child’s self esteem. When separating, as a parent it is crucial to make things easier and try to minimise disruption in your child’s life. However, it is often easy to overlook the long-term effects a separation can have on children. Research has shown that the effects of their parent’s separation is not during that period of time, but post-divorce. In turn, feelings of inadequacy, sadness and low-self esteem may begin to build.

According to the University of Wisconsin, children whose parents divorced showed a decreasing level of interpersonal skills, feelings of self-worth and interestingly their maths abilities. In 2008 their study involved 3,600 six-year-olds whose parents were divorced from intact marriages, they then tracked them through the next four years. They found that children from divorced parents had:

  • Lower math skills ? but not reading skills ? as maths knowledge is cumulative and could be interrupted by negative feelings caused by divorce
  • A marked inability to ?express feelings in a positive way? which harmed them in both making and keeping friends
  • Tendency to internalise problems which were typically characterized by anxiety, low self-esteem and feelings of sadness

Another study that was conducted in 2005 found that children of divorced parents were twice as likely to have a stroke as an adult than children of parents who were not divorced.

How You Can Help

It is important to understand that children model their own relationships on their parents’ relationship with each orther. Separation and divorce can often be inevitable, however there are ways to cope with the situation by respecting one another and being kind towards each other. You need to make the separation easier by helping your children deal with the situation, and let them know you still both love them even if you no longer love each other.

You can do this by:

  • Talking openly to your child about the separation, stressing that they are not the cause of the break-up and that both Mummy and Daddy?s feelings toward them has not changed.
  • Not making your child take sides. Allow your child to do what is best for them, even if it hurts you. You are the grown-up, aren?t you?
  • Allowing your child to express his or her feelings without the fear that their opinions or sense of hurt will only compound the problem. When children feel compelled to bottle things up, eventually they will explode.
  • Resisting the urge to say negative things about your former partner in front of your child. In an ideal world, both parents should do all they can to be supportive about each other. Don?t rely on your child for emotional support either ? find friends or a counsellor who can do that for you, and let your child remain a child.

A Secure World

When a child does not have stable and secure role models, they often look for relationships outside the home to provide them with what they are missing. However, it can often lead to bad situations, a high percentage of children who join gangs or have inappropriate relationships at an early age are the children of divorced or separated parents.

It is crucial that you put the child first when separating with your partner, although it may be a difficult time in your lives, you need to keep these issues separate and be there at all times for your child. How you react to the separation now can affect how your child will react to various events throughout his or her life.

Separation is not easy to deal with however, minimise the disruption and continue to be their mother and father. It?s important ? not only for their development today, but for their own self-esteem and happiness in the future.

KNBP can support and help guide your family through separation. If the parents are supported, the child can only benefit from this.

Source: Separate Dads


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