Separating is Never Easy…for Anyone

When a child’s parents’ break up, it can be a very confusing time.  Here are some common signs that kids are reacting to the separation:

  • Clinging to one or both parents
  • Weight loss
  • Withdrawal
  • Loss of interest in friends
  • Attention seeking behaviour
  • Aggression
  • Depression
  • Bed wetting (younger children)
  • Physical symptoms such as: stomach aches, headaches, etc…
  • Nightmares/crying
  • Refusing to sleep in own bed
  • Drinking/drugs/smoking/sexual promiscuity
  • Stealing/shoplifting
  • Moody/silent/listless
  • Avoiding coming home i.e. spending all their time with friends
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Resentment
  • Defiance i.e. refusal to do chores

The younger a child is, the less they are able to communicate their needs and feelings verbally to you after the separation.  When preschool children feel insecure, stressed out or neglected, they tell you by their behaviour.  Often they regress back to earlier stages such as, thumb sucking, bed wetting, being afraid of the dark, waking up frequently in the night etc…

Older children are more capable of expressing themselves verbally, but they will still show their feelings through their behaviour.  For example, they may begin to withdraw from friends, show a lack of interest in school, or get poor grades.

Adolescents may tell you that they are reacting to the separation by cutting classes, becoming verbally abusive, becoming sexually irresponsible, defying curfew or using alcohol and/or drugs.

Susan Lieberman is in private practice in Toronto as a family therapist and public speaker. For more information call (416) 512-6356.

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