A family separating is always a difficult process both mentally and emotionally. Sometimes it happens naturally as two people grow apart and no longer wish to stay together. Other times it is a result of emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse between the spouses. And yet in other times, an entire immigrant family can be separated by the government.
Whatever it is that separates the family, it is always very painful, particularly for the children. That’s exactly why it’s worth paying special attention to the young ones to take note of any major changes in their mental health and prevent the worst from happening. Here are the effects of family separation on a child’s mental health that you should watch out for.
How Are Children Affected by Family Separation?
There are many ways in which a child can be affected by family separation, and even though some of them are not as terrible as others, they should all be treated seriously and dealt with rather than ignored or overlooked. Here are the aspects of your child’s mental health that you should pay attention to:
- The child can feel a sense of loss. If the child is separated from one parent completely or even partially, they can feel like they have lost something essential because their life will now be completely different.
- The child can be scared of being alone. In their mind, if one parent has left, another can potentially leave as well. This is a particularly big issue with younger children rather than older ones or teenagers.
- The child can be angry at one or both of their parents and may blame them for the family separating and their relationship breaking up.
- The child can feel guilty for the family separation. On the contrary to the previous point, the child can be worried about being the reason for the breakup in the first place which leads them to feel guilty.
- The child can feel rejected and insecure. Because a parent has left, they won’t be as sure about their life as they used to be. Moreover, they can feel rejected from feeling guilty for breaking up the relationship.
- The child can be torn between the two parents. If the separation is particularly strict and the child can only stay with one parent, they will experience a lot of distress as they try to choose between their two parents.
As Thomas Whitaker from the custom writing reviews site Writing Judge says, “Children are always affected during family separation. They are particularly sensitive to divorce. But what parents really forget about is that both young children and teenagers can experience divorce very emotionally, so they both need to be cared about.”
What Research Has Been Done on The Subject Matter at Hand?
There’s a lot of research available on the matter of the psychological effects of family separation on children. Most of the findings point to:
- Parental separation is a risk factor for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Those who experienced parental separation during childhood have a risk factor of developing schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in adulthood.
- Children with non-cohabiting parents have more psychosomatic problems than those living in nuclear families. The best family for children is the one that has both parents rather than only one – or separated parents not living together.
- Migration and incarceration can also influence the mental wellbeing of your children because both migration and incarceration lead to parents separating and entire families falling apart.
[Related: Treating the growing trauma of family separation]
What Can You Do to Help Your Children in A Situation Like This?
Obviously, the best way to help your children cope with family separation is by seeing a qualified specialist who will determine whether they are experiencing any mental or emotional issues that need to be dealt with. This is the only way to really give your children the treatment they deserve in a stressful situation such as this one caused by family separation and/or parents divorcing.
Don’t try to treat your child yourself because you might only worsen their mental health. The best thing you can do is keeping a close eye on the way they behave and the things they tell you. If you get alerted by something unusual or their behavior changes drastically, then you should definitely get to a qualified specialist as soon as possible so that your child can be treated appropriately.
Moreover, it’s even better not to wait for the change in their behavior and to act immediately. As you are getting divorced or separating from your spouse, take your children to the right therapist who will be able to treat them and make sure that their mental health stays stable. This way, you will also be able to prevent any potential problems from happening in the first place.
In addition to that, you can also start seeing a therapist regarding your own mental wellbeing and ask your spouse to do so as well. This will allow you to stay sane during the process of family separation and be able to support your children in every way possible, especially if they will be feeling worse than you.
To sum up, to help your children to get through the process of family separation and accept it well, you need to watch out for certain signs in their mental health. Make sure that you spend enough time with your children to ensure that they are okay both mentally and emotionally.
Frank Hamilton has been working as an editor at essay review service Best Writers Online. He is a professional writing expert in such topics as blogging, digital marketing, and self-education. He also loves traveling and speaks Spanish, French, German, and English.