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Impact of family separation: Babies and Pre-verbal Children

Friday, November 6th, 2015

When a divorce or separation takes place, it is a common misconception that babies are not affected by their surroundings. This can be due to the difficulty of spotting the signs of distress, anxiety and the simple fact that they cannot tell you how they are feeling. It is crucial to understand that experiences that happen in the very early days, weeks and months of child’s life will have a profound influence on the rest of their lives. In turn, family separation can have an impact on babies and pre-verbal children.

Distress in children of this age can form from two main causes. Firstly, babies can pick up on the emotional atmosphere around them. If parents are angry or depressed ? the world will feel like an uncertain place for them. Secondly, one way children learn to feel safe in the world is through experiencing the continuous and predictable reappearance of significant carers. If a significant adult who was continuously present in their life is suddenly not around, this will cause them to feel anxious.

Furthermore, the change in routine can affect babies negatively, such as a change in carers and a change of surroundings. For example, frequent moves in houses that do not fit around your baby’s immediate needs will cause them problems. It is essential that familiarity is put in place, in order for your baby to deal with developmental stages.

Here is a short summary or signs of distress, things that may help your baby and things to avoid:

Signs of distress
?Look out for things such as your baby not settling to sleep, disturbance in eating patterns, excessive crying and needing to use a dummy more often than usual. Also take notice of how your baby responds to the world around them ? do they seem withdrawn? Are they interacting normally with adults or other children through smiling and eye contact. In older babies, look out for sign of regression such as going back to nappies when they have moved beyond them or increased clinginess.

Things that help
Wherever possible, try to make your baby’s sleep routines as similar as possible. Using the same cot blanket, the same washing powder and the same comforters will all help your baby to feel safe. Try to stick to your baby’s other daily routines such as nap times and meal times and think about things like giving your baby the same foods which ever parent she’s with. To help your baby to stay emotionally and psychologically secure, it’s important that you give plenty of cuddles, smiles and good eye contact. Try talking to your baby in a calm reassuring tone. You can even read her stories.

Things to avoid
Don’t expect your baby to manage too many transitions each week. Don’t put your baby into a new child care situation at the same time as expecting her to adjust to living in two homes and try not to have new people involved in taking care of her ? you’re trying to cause as little disruption as possible. The fewer the additional changes, the better.?

Source: Separated Families

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