Monday, 24 November 2014

When their world comes crashing down…

When their world comes crashing down…

More and more couples nowadays are facing issues in their marriages and more marriages today are ending in separation or divorce. But with so much of research available in the filed of early childhood care, parents must ensure that broken relationships between parents do not end up breaking the spirit, emotions or confidence of their children. This blog is specially written to help parents that are going through a divorce/ separation, to help them understand its impact on children. 

Then there are those parents who are dealing with the death of a partner or bringing up their children alone as the spouse is working overseas. Preparing yourself to become a single parent…

It is not the divorce or separation that impacts children as much as the stress related to it. For example, a child today is quite used to not seeing the dad as often because of his hectic work schedule or travel schedule; but in a divorce or separation, the stress of the tense relationship between the parents, the mother’s angst, anxiety and depression and sometimes both parents asking the child to keep away from the other or keep secrets from the other parent, all lead to stress. The stress is quite destructive emotionally, socially, and cognitively.
For decades, research (as revealed from the work of Christina Nigrelli and Carolyn Brennan of Zero to Three USA) has demonstrated the importance of early relationships and experiences on the healthy development of infants and toddlers.  More recently, neuroscience has allowed us to see the impact of positive, nurturing experiences on brain development. When parents provide stable and nurturing relationships they are promoting Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health (I-ECMH). The field of I-ECMH approached social and emotional health in the context of families and promoted the notion that development occurs within the context of relationships.  It is through this lens that we are now beginning to understand the impact of stress experienced by families going through a separation or divorce on young children’s development.

To quote from the research and findings of I-ECMH- most families experience some stress while raising very young children.  How much stress they experience falls on a spectrum from low levels of occasional stress (such as an argument between parents) to chronic stress (parents separated, divorced, constant fighting, asking child to take sides).  Chronic stress, also called toxic stress, is often associated with children when they do not feel safe and nurtured.  When people experience stress or feel unsafe, their bodies respond by producing increased levels of cortisol.  For adults, the increased levels of cortisol aids in a ‘fight or flight’ response to stressful situations.  In a young child, increased levels of cortisol can get in the way of optimal brain development.
I-ECMH specialists have also learned that stress experienced by adults can negatively affect the adult-child relationship.  The way that adults respond to their own stress influences the way they interact with young children.  They may, for example, talk less with the child, or have decreased positive interactions.  This is important because early interactions shape early brain architecture and influence ongoing development. Children may respond to stress by crying, moving away from parents, or clinging to a particular parent, grandparent, teacher and not wanting to let go.  This can establish a difficult pattern as the child’s challenging behaviors can add to the stress that the parent or parents are already feeling.

So age does not matter; a separation or divorce not handled well by the family can harm children as young as infants and as old as teenagers.

More and more parents today are going through divorce or separation and are not seeking help at the right time; help could be a family discussion, couple counseling etc. In our Jumbo Kids Kindergartens, when we ask children to draw their parents or family; their drawings depict the stress that many of these children are experiencing at home, the constant squabbles, fights and arguments. Sometimes, open fist fights between mother and father or other family members over who will pay the child’s school fees leave a negative impact on school going children. What compounds the problem is the tug-of-war that parents have about the child and her/his custody. Schools and daycares play an important role in this, as teachers are the second most important ‘people’ in a child’s life after the parents.

10 things every parent can do to ensure that mental and emotional health of their children is safeguarded during a divorce or separation.
1.     Remember that it is a divorce of the husband and wife and not of the father and mother of the child. You entered into a formal marriage relationship, so you can break it with a divorce, but parenting is something that cannot be, and should not be undone by any law in the world.
2.     Recognize signs in your relationship of strain between you and your partner and consciously work towards conflict resolution and as much as possible not aim for a break up.
3.     Ensure that the stress is not transmitted to the child. So talk to your children by giving an example about how friends or siblings fight or argue and things are then resolved; that is what mummy and daddy are doing.
4.     Allow children to ask questions and give relevant answers. Do not avoid questions, as it will be more dangerous for the child’s mental health if the child comes to know about it from a person other than the parents.
5.     Resist making your child the bargaining point of your separation; legal battles are fine but the child should not feel like it is being treated as in a ‘passing the parcel’.
6.     Most children end up thinking that the parents are breaking up because of them; so it is important to reassure children that it had nothing to do with them but it was an issue only between the parents.
7.     Children feel stressed about the future; so ensure that you reassure them that they will be safe and always loved by both the father and the mother, even if the parents are separated and not living together.
8.     In cases where the wife was beaten, abused etc., it is important that the child is assured that the mother will be safe.
9.     Avoid asking the child to keep secrets from the other parent as this increases the stress.
10.  Always keep the school and teacher informed, as changes in the child’s behaviour will occur and understanding these changes will help the school take appropriate steps instead of aggravating the situation and adding stress at school too.

When a death of a parent occurs, children go through the same stress, especially because the living parent is undergoing stress. Counseling helps, even family counseling which means being there for the child, and creating a safe and nurturing daily routine for the child.
The best way to talk about death to a child is relating it to nature; how a plant grows and then withers away, so things are born, and they become old and do die. Answer as much as the child asks; if children ask a question, it means the brain and emotions are now ready for it. Do not lie that the parent who has passed away will come back; this creates a false hope and then reduces the trust between you and your child. Children need a father and a mother and in the absence of any one of them or both, they can be given a father like/mother like figure. Some times aunts, uncles, or grand parents take on the role, which is fine as long as the emotional health of the child is nurtured.

In my weekly parent counseling sessions, many single parents ask me, ‘Should we remarry?’Of course a parent should remarry, why not? All that needs to be done is to ensure that the partner you are now marrying has spent time with your children and you have spoken to your children about the relationship and marriage. There will be resistance from your children in some cases; it has to be handled with care and understanding. The fairy tales that we expose children to right from birth, again add to the problem as a stepmother and stepfather already have a horrible reputation and children relate to it. Avoid referring to the new parent as a stepparent. Ensure that your immediate family circle, friends, are also taken into confidence and do not end up giving incorrect information.

Details, information, and questions in these delicate relationship based matters should be answered only by parents or trusted adults.

In many cases I have met mothers who are married, happily married, but are struggling to bring up their children and feel like a single parent. Reason- the husband works overseas and so the  mother is bringing up the children on her own. When one parent is away due to professional reasons-
1.     Ensure that you talk about or refer to the other parent as much as possible during the day.
2.     Ensure that you use video chatting with your children.
3.     Post photos and share with kids so that they do not lose touch.
4.     Refrain from using the parent who is away as a tool for disciplining the child, e.g., ‘Daddy won’t come back if you don’t listen to me.’
5.     Do not indulge in guilt parenting once you are back; allowing the child to run riot with all rules, breaking all barriers, etc.
6.     Consciously avoid making children feel that they are to be blamed for the parent having to work away from home; avoid statements like- ‘To pay your school fees, daddy has to work hard and is away.’ etc.
7.     Ensure those important days like annual concerts, sports day are all recorded, clicked, and shared with the parent who is away.
8.     The parent who is away from home should make it a point to refer to the photos when s/he next speaks to the kids. This will reassure the children and make them feel safe and nurtured by both parents.


Maslow’s hierarchy of needs states that after water and food, safety and security is the prime need of all human beings. We easily ensure that our kids never go thirsty or hungry; it’s time we also ensured that they feel safe, nurtured and secure in the most important relationship of their lives. This will lay the foundation for all their future relationships. 

39 comments:

Aparna PJK Chinchwad-2 said...

Thank you Ma'am for sharing this article on child psychology. The best way to raise positive children in a negative world is to have positive parents who love them unconditionally and serve as excellent role models.

namrata singh said...

Thank you Ma'am for Sharing such a wonderful article with us.Parents have to become a role models and really I have seen children suffering if there parents get divorced. Even My father passed away when my brother was 5 yrs old so I have gone through the same stress.

Pjk Bengaluru CBSE said...

The author here has rightly drawn the attention of people who think that fulfilling the material requirements of the children in their care will make them successful parents, by making them aware that emotional bondage and care is equally important in nurturing the young generation at our hands, relating it to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, where after hunger and thirst, safety, security and belongingness is the next need.
Fortunately if we as parents could differentiate between needs and wants of children, we can groom our children in a better way.

Sapna Belliappa said...

The blog depicts the present day scenario faced by many and its adverse effect on the children.It also makes the parents realize they are only separating them selves as husband and wife but not as a father or mother.We as educators need to cater to the stress and emotions of the child and help lay the foundation for all their future relationships.

PJK Wagholi said...

Thank you Swati Ma'am for this knowledgeable article. This surely be the great help for our teachers and parents to understand the importance of infant and early childhood mental health of a child and it will be fruitful to nurture the generation with the appropriate way.

PJK Wagholi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bhosari Pjk said...

very truly said ma'am the separation is between husband & wife,not between the parents.We all need to understand that as a person we only look for our comfort but by the time we realise our mistake our kids life is affected adversely,which sometime lead to metal depression.This blog of your's will work as a guide to many of the parents. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Mysore Pjk said...

This post relates to the issue of single parent and also the mental stress and emotion a child faces through. We as educated parents and teachers should take care of the children who face problems such as emotion and stress and bring in confidence of handling the situation.

vaishali joshi said...

Dear ma’am, a wonderful article. After reading this article I read very deeply about IECMH. A new learning for me through this article. As we observe many children every day we see some or other new changes in the children.
I would like to share one experience with all. Before 4 years in our Jr.K.G. class a child was scribbling very harsh on the paper. He was throwing pencils, if teacher try to hug him, he used to run away from her. We handled child very carefully as we were aware that something must have happened so that child’s behavior has changed. That child was with us from class Nursery. After 2-3 weeks father came to school to submit a court order that child’s custody is with father and nobody else (mother) is allowed to pick up the child from school bus.
Ma’am the point one is truly mentioned that because of separation relation of child with the parents remain same for that both parents should have mutual understanding.
Tips which are given for overseas parents are very easy to follow; these activities will have a positive impact on child.
T hanks for giving us a new learning! Vaishali Joshi.

Abhaya K- PJK Bangalore-1 said...

The blog gave an understanding of how to give a convincing answer to the kids when they approach us with issues of parent quarrelling.It is high time that we should make an awareness among the parents that they should not put their children under stress by quarrelling in front of them.

Shimoga Pjk said...

very well said that divorce can be only for husband and wife but not of the father and mother of the child.

It is indeed a useful article which is need of the hour,it clearly says how child undergo stress and how to deal with that in different situations.

PJK Patiala said...

Yes Madam..it is really a big responsibility on the shoulders of a Single Parent....bearing the loss of partner (reason may be any), keeping the mental balance intact and maintaining rational behavior with the children.

Jumbo Kids Kharghar said...

A wonderful article to understand a little child's trauma, emotions and her/his behaviour under a stressful condition in home front. A nano guide book for parents and teachers!

jayshree shah said...

This article is really one of the best article . I have gone through its very sensitive, emotional and it clearly has wonderful tips for parents what care & precautions can be taken in case of divorce & separation, if this is not handled well by the family can harm children as young as infants and as old as teenager.
wonderful eye opener article for every one on the impact of divorce and separation.

Uma Nagdeo said...

The blog gives great learning for a single parent how to deal with children during situation of separation or divorce. it is very important for parent to understand the emotional sate of child and to behave rationally.
Parents are role models for their child their behaviour and attitude impacts the child. Parents those who are constantly fighting or quarreling in front of their kids leads them to stress either child become very silent or hyper which is not good for his or her overall development.

Uma Nagdeo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
shilpa said...

Title itself makes us understand how important is their mind who are still growing when they have toxic stress when parents are away thank you for sharing and i will share with all.

Pimpri Standalone PJK OWN said...

Thank you Ma'am for sharing this article.After reading this article
we can understand that as a teacher
we have a very important role in child's life,in such situations she
can safeguard child's mental
and emotional health.

Mentor Sarina said...

wonderful checklist to remember and go through in crises and doubt for confused parents.
For a child both parents are as important and their presence adds to their growing years.
The couple comes together as adults once they have a child in their life they decide the path for the child and then walk on it if not as one but together as parents till the child understands and accepts.

Kalpana Mahalwar said...

Parents should be a role models for their children and children really suffer if their parents get divorced.It also effects child's emotional and intellectual development. Child faces the insecurity related to future.

Bandrapjk said...

Thank you ma'am for such a wonderful article. It's an eye opener for us as well as the society it's not the divorce or separation that impacts children as much the stress around it does.

Podar Jumbo Kids Nandurbar said...

The blog depicts the mental state of a child in rough phases of Parenting .Child should not suffer due to confrontation between Parents.Parenting is all about nurturing the child in a way so that they feel safe and secure.

Nyna Trivedi said...

Very rightly said: husband and wife can take divorce but parents can not. Very important and valuable information for the parents of young children. The issue has to be handled tenderly.

Nyna Trivedi said...

Very rightly said: husband and wife can take divorce but parents can not. Very important and valuable information for the parents of young children. The issue has to be handled tenderly.

Pjk Gwalior said...

As a parent (role model of our children) we have to be very cautions while talking or dealing in-front of our children with our partner as it really impact on the children,which is reflected on the child behaviour.And we should not forget that its every child right to get a good parenting.
Thank Ma'am for sharing the article and making us aware about I-ECMH.

PJK,Nigdi said...

Husband and wife can take divorce but parents can not .The impact of stress should not affect the young children's development.child should feel safe and nurtured.Than you ma'am for parenting article.

Jumbo Kids Nanded said...

I really understand the mentality of children whose parents are separated as I have faced this situation in my family. The only boy child who is very innocent and shy has never approach the family about his feelings but in school during interval he was crying quietly on his desk as no one seeing him... but that was his teacher who understand his problem and start sharing slowly and gradually. So this plays a vital role of teacher who really take care and love their kids& I am thankful to teachers. THANK YOU Respected Swati mam for such a wonderful blog.

Uma Wagh PJK Jalgaon said...

Be close to your baby when he/she is sick.
Talk to him/her, make gestures and faces and smile.
Cuddle your little one in your arms and give a big hug. He/she knows you are there.
Learnt alot ma'am.Handling conflicts in the family is very imp.& the way we are putting in front of children.Thank you.

Manpreet Kaur Kalra said...

Thank you Ma'a, for this wonderful article. Got to learn lots from it.

PJK Vadgaonsheri 2 said...

My heartfelt thanks for sharing this blog which is of great learning as at times we forget the mental and emotional health of the child is equally important.In every thick and thin of life we should take this responsibility to nurture our children in a stress free environment.These 10 points in the blog should be acknowledged by all.

nagpur jumbo kid said...

Thanks Mam ,for sharing this wonderful article with us.At our Centre there are
5 Teachers who are undergoing with this same situation.This problem has become universal.This article will be of great help in handling children as well as Teachers .

Ms Vaishali Chaudhary(PJK Chinchwad) said...

It is truly said divorce is a separation of husband and wife but not of the father and mother of the child.So such parents have to take care of the mentality of their children. Children should feel safe and their emotional bondage with parents should be taken care of.

Jumbo Kids Akola said...

A wonderful article Ma'am, disputes between parents in family is very common thing now a days, but we dont realise that the child standing there is going under so much of stress which they cannot express.As adult we must make them understand that this is same fight as they fight among there cousins and again patch up.The 10 points given are very helpful if we really follow them to groom our kids in a better way.

Aur.harsultpoint Pjk said...

Sometimes we notice that something does not feel right with a child but we as parents gets distracted.We should not allow problems with our child to grow and fister.
I would like to mention and relate an incident with the blog.We had a parent in nursery whoes views never ever matched with each other in upbringing the child. If mother wanted the child to eat and drink a thing the very opposite the father wanted.
These arguments at home was making the child nervous, worried, shy, irritable less confident which was clearly seen in his performance in his school.
The parents also got seperated for a period of 6 months. The one who was suffering the most was the child.
We were really worried and concerned about the child.Finally 1 day both parents came to us and discussed their problems and told us that we have sorted our problems only for our son. This was a great releif for the teacher and all of us.
Interaction with the child is very important,it can be through a small smile, a good word, a laugh or a short story or even a meal together.
Thank you for the blog.
Ms.Rachana Jagtap
T-point Aurangabad

Veena Sangli said...

Thank you ma'am for sharing this article.Even I have seen a case of divorce and how it impacts destructive stress on kids emotionally socially and cognitively .After reading this article parents will surely change their decision of divorce just for their child because child need both mother and father.

Jaya Amit Khanna said...

Hats off to you for this article!! Not only did we discuss this when I met with you...but on a personal level...this article has nudged me towards some major gear change in my own life. Lots and lots of respect!

Jumbo Kids, Chakan said...

The reason may be any separation or divorce but it has a impact on children which results in stress.Both father and mother are equally important for a child.A separation from any one parent leads to stress specially when there is no father like/mother like figure for the child.

Jumbo kids Chakan II said...

Parents are role models for their child's behavior and attitude impacts the child. Parents those who are constantly fighting or quarreling in front of their kids leads them to stress either child become very silent or hyper which is not good for his or her overall development.

Jumbo Kids Nashik said...

Thank you ma'am for sharing this informative article.