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Manual > 8 - Psychology of Divorce > Stress in Children

Stress in Children

Sometimes parents need help identifying stress in children, especially little ones. What follows are some typical experiences and signs of stress in children of different ages.

I. INFANTS AND TODDLERS:

A. Regression in terms of sleeping, toilet training or eating; slowing down in the mastery of new skills
B. Sleep disturbances (difficulty gong to sleep; frequent waking)
C. Difficulty leaving parent; clinginess
D. General crankiness, temper tantrums, crying.

II. THREE TO FIVE YEARS:

A. Regression: returning to security blankets and discarded toys, lapses in toilet training, thumb sucking
B. Immature grasp of what has happened; bewildered; making up fantasy stories
C. Blaming themselves and feeling guilty
D. Bedtime anxiety; fitful/fretful sleep; frequent waking
E. Fear of being abandoned by both parents; clinginess
F. Greater irritability, aggression, temper tantrums.

III. SIX TO EIGHT YEARS:

A. Pervasive sadness; feeling abandoned and rejected
B. Crying and sobbing
C. Afraid of their worst fears coming true
D. Reconciliation fantasies
E. Loyalty conflicts; feeling physically torn apart
F. Problems with impulse control; disorganized behavior.

IV. NINE TO TWELVE YEARS:

A. Able to see family disruption clearly; try to bring order to situation
B. Fear of loneliness
C. Intense anger at the parent they blame for causing the divorce
D. Physical complaints; headaches and stomach aches
E. May become overactive to avoid thinking about the divorce
F. Feel ashamed of what's happening in their family; feel they are different from other children.

V. ADOLESCENTS:

A. Fear of being isolated and lonely
B. Experience parents as leaving them; feel parents are not available to them
C. Feel hurried to achieve independence
D. Feel in competition with parents
E. Worry about their own future loves and marriage; preoccupied with the survival of relationships
F. Discomfort with a parent's dating and sexuality
G. Chronic fatigue; difficulty concentrating
H. Mourn the loss of the family of their childhood.



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