Unfortunately in today’s society, divorce is a lot more common than it used to be. Many young children are growing up in single parent homes, or going through the process of divorce between their parents, at home. At an age where they are piecing together their identity, throwing in the separation of their parents is a huge upheaval, which has great emotional effects on them.
THE EFFECT OF DIVORCE ON BOYS OF DIFFERENT AGES
Some of the effects of divorce on children are:
low self esteem, and
a sense of responsibility for their parent’s breakup – especially in boys.
UP TO 2 YEARS
Boys as young as 18 months can suffer frequent and particularly terrifying nightmares.
AGES 3 – 5
In some studies, it’s shown that it takes many boys between three and five years to regain their stability after their parent’s divorce – more than twice as long as girls.
”Boys are more vulnerable than girls both to conflict in nuclear families and to the effects of divorce,” says Dr. Hetherington. ”The effects on boys seem to be more long lasting and more intense.”
AGES 6 -10
An ‘inconsolable sadness’ has been observed in boys of 7 and 8. Boys between the ages of 9 and 10 respond more in anger than sadness.
Research shows that divorce-related problems in teens can run from an increase in drug and alcohol use, to feeling shame and guilt over the actions of their parents.
In some single parent homes, boys sometimes feel they have to take on responsibility for their mother – her state of mind, health, finances and even her social life. As an adult, this can result in him being a person who has no sense of himself as a spontaneous human being – he can be too serious, and compulsive.
STEPS TO HELP A BOY FEEL SECURE THROUGH A DIVORCE:
KEEP IN TOUCH WITH DAD
If possible, see that the father stays involved in the boy’s life. Fathers or male role models are a huge part of a boy’s life; they are male figures boys learn masculinity from.
LIVING WITH MOM
If a boy lives with his mother, she needs to establish control in the home quickly. Boys thrive on boundaries, and creating a predictable, secure environment for kids is important. Some boys resist commands from a mother the harder she pushes them, so creating a level of healthy control and boundaries in the home as soon as she can is a good way to avoid this coercive cycle that could occur between a mom and her son(s).
It’s already a huge deal for boys when parents get divorced. Avoid fighting in front of your son during and after the divorce. They don’t need to deal with adult issues like that – keep the fighting between adults.
That goes for bad-mouthing the other spouse too – your issues and views of the other person aren’t your child’s views or issues. Let them create their own views in time.
It’s important for moms to still tolerate and affirm their sons rough play, even if the father isn’t living in the home any longer. If she can avoid disrespecting the father, and still keep the view of testosterone in the home healthy, while letting ‘boys be boys’, it will go a long way in keeping a boy feeling secure in himself as a male. The way the mom handles the absence of the father is key.
Divorce is hard on children! Understanding how it affects them (certainly differently to us, as adults) can go a long way in helping us as parents, guide our sons through the process of divorce.
Miriam Stoppard – Know Your Child
NY Times article: The Sons Of Divorce by Linda Bird Francke
Helpguide.org article: Children and Divorce