Every child is affected differently by divorce and their needs can heavily depend on their age. It’s important to know what the basic needs are for each age group, what can help them cope, and what situations the child may be facing at that age. Age groups can be classified into four categories: infants and toddlers, preschoolers, elementary middle-schoolers, and adolescents.
Infants and Toddlers
The infant and toddler years are typically classified from birth to 2 ½ years old. At this stage it’s important to establish trust and a routine by Striving to consistently fulfill their basic needs so it becomes a regular schedule, especially with sleeping patterns. Having familiar surroundings with items like blankets or stuffed animals also helps establish consistency in their daily lives. Additionally, to reinforce this, parenting time should be at a familiar location and if not, it is ideal to have an older sibling go along. Start small and gradually work up to the time increases with the parent who is not the primary caregiver. This gradual increase will help them deal with the adjustment more easily.
Some things to consider for this age group are how to maintain a regular eating and sleeping schedule, arranging a childcare provider if necessary, and dealing with things such as toilet training, crying, or temper tantrums.
Preschoolers are in the 2 ½ to 5 year age range. There are some overlapping needs from the infant/toddler stage such as consistent schedules and familiar surroundings. However, preschoolers also need the chance to explore and permission to express their feelings. Gradually increasing the time the child spends with the non-primary parent will help ease the adjustment. It’s important to keep in mind that at this age children may not understand negative words you are saying, but they can decipher if you are being negative about someone, so make sure your attitude is positive or neutral toward the other parent.
Elementary and Middle Schoolers
Elementary to middle schoolers range from ages 5 to 12 years old. Consistency remains important at this age, not only in daily routine items but in activities such as music lessons, sports, or clubs. Because school comes into play at this age the need arises for each parent to have open communication with the school, teachers, and principal. Additionally you’ll want to facilitate quality time with each parent. This might include overnight stays if your child feels comfortable and secure in both homes. The need to be a good role model for your child and refrain from speaking against the other parent is essential at any point, but especially at this age. If your child hears you speak negatively about the other parent, they now understand they are associated with both parent, so by speaking negatively about one you may affect your child’s own self worth.
Social skills are really developing during these ages so teach your children positive social habits on interacting with other people, including the other parent.
When your child is in school there are a number of other aspects you need to consider such as, how involved do you each want to be in school activities, should you have before/after school childcare, how you will organize transportation to and from school, and how you will allocate your child’s vacation and summer time.
Adolescents are considered ages 12-18. Communication and the ability to create a unified front between you and the other parent its very important when raising your teenager. In this way you will both be informed about your child, communicating consistent rules, and they will be less likely to play one parent against the other. Adolescents need permission to ask questions as they develop their beliefs and values. In addition it’s good to have equal contact with both parents through regular parenting time or involvement in extracurricular activities.
Empowering and helping them develop their independence will help at this stage. Ask for their input on decisions when necessary, give them the ability to make decisions on their own, give them permission to ask about the break-up between you and the other parent.
When raising a child, each age group brings its own unique challenges. It’s important to be aware of what obstacles they are facing and support them as much as possible.
These tips are brought to you by our MN Family Law Lawyers .