Understanding a Preschooler
The preschooler years bring rapid intellectual, physical, and emotional growth (Newman, 1998). Your preschooler s imagination is racing, and he is fascinated by everything around him. He is learning to reason, to exercise self-control, and to name and express his emotions verbally (Newman, 1998).
For the first time in their lives, preschoolers begin to show signs of empathy and understanding, although they will remain predominantly self-centered until age five or so. Their view of world expands to include how other people interact. They will remark on how someone treats someone else: Tommy pinches all the other kids, so he s mean; Melissa brought cupcakes to class today, so she s nice. At the same time, they have also grown acutely aware of how other people respond to them (Newman, 1998).
Your child s world has grown so much larger, yet Mommy and Daddy still reign supreme. To him, you are everything. This is why he measures himself by how you treat him. He knows no other means of testing his self-image and his thinking is largely formed by the emotional input the words, actions, attitudes of others. He is not capable of thinking, I m great and deserving of happiness because my mom loves me, spends time talking to me and playing with me, and hugs me a lot. However, he feels these emotions very strongly, and he associates Mom s behavior toward him with the positive feelings. Similarly, he will not tell himself, I am not valuable or lovable because Daddy rarely plays with me and Mommy is too busy for me and I hardly ever get hugs or attention. Yet he will make an associate between the behavior of those closest to him and how he feels about himself (Newman, 1998).
Children of Divorce
Approximately one million children experience their parents divorce each year (National Center for Health Statistics, 1992). Divorce is viewed not as a single stressful event in children lives, but rather as a market for the occurrence of a series of a stressors including decreased contact with both parents, conflict between their parents, decreases in family income and resources, and other stressful events (Felner, Farber & Primavera, 1980; Sandler, Wolchik, & Braver, 1988).
Effects of Divorce
Numerous studies concerning the effects of divorce on children have indicated that the meaning of divorce differs greatly depending on the family context and the children s ages. Research has yielded contradictory results that imply that studying the impact of divorce on children is very complex and numerous factors need to be considered. First of all, studies indicate that children s social and emotional adjustment is often better in harmonious separated homes than it is in intact conflictual homes (Raschke, 1987; Ambert, 1990a). Preschoolers and children under eight years old tends to blame themselves for the divorce. They fear that both parents may abandon them (Prestine, 1990). The effects differ in wide range. There is a sense of loss, difficulty in trusting and conflict in relationships (Helen, Child Therapist in Mississauga Hospital), lack of self-esteem, blaming themselves (Joanne, Public Health Nurse), imagination and fears, denial, anger, misplaced guilt, permission to love both parents and regression (Newman, 1998).
Sense of Loss
Children feel the feeling of loss and they don t cognitively understand of what s happening (Helen, Child Therapist in Mississauga Hospital).
Lack of Trust
Person disappearing and returning and not knowing when their going to return (Helen, Child Therapist at Mississauga Hospital). Children have difficulty, trusting people. They are afraid that people are going to walk out on them. They worry people will leave them (Joanne, Public Health Nurse).
Lack of self-esteem
Kids blame themselves due to the conflict between their parents. It s a loss for the child because through the divorce one parent will enevitally will move out (Joanne, Public Health Nurse).
Why? What s wrong with me? What did I do? They think that something s wrong with them (Joanne, Public Health Nurse).
Because of divorce, sometimes child actually believes that they are the force or the cause behind much of what happens in their world. Children are more comfortable assuming blame and thinking that they caused something to happen than believing that the world is a place where bad things just happen without rhyme or reason (Newman, 1998).
Imagination and Fears
Preschoolers can and do imagine possible future events. But unlike older children, they don t have the ability to counteract their fears with reason. Because they cannot but help but view every event from a what about me perspective, on some level they will interpret a parent s leaving the home as a rejection of themselves. Every major event in the divorce is, in the preschool mind, a springboard from which intense and scary fears take flight (Newman, 1998). During the age of four and five the child might imagine their parent s getting together (Helen, Child Therapist at Mississauga Hospital).
Preschoolers may apply their newfound powers of imagination to denial. They may tell themlselves, Daddy really is going to come home soon, or the most common fantasy Mommy and Daddy are going to get married again. Older preschooler may believe, If I m really good, Mommy and Daddy will get back together, while younger ones may keep pretending nothing has changed (Newman, 1998).
Many children will feel angry at one or both parents but be terrified of expressing their emotions directly. (After all, they may fear their anger caused their parent s breakup.) These children often displace their anger and become aggressive or mean to playmates and others. Or they may begin to hide all their emotions in order to keep the anger at bay. Sometimes children tend to mirror the actions of parents. If parents are angry with each other, it is common for children to respond to their friends and siblings the same way (Prestine, 1990). Young children, ages two to three, will normally hit when they are angry or sad. It is a normal behavior but has to be dealt with (Helen, Child Therapist at Mississauga Hospital). Coping magneism to deal with the anger they have towards the parents for divorcing. They don t know who to take it out on or how to cope with it in a positive way (Joanne, Public Health Nurse).
Despite all the outward signs of maturity, a preschooler is still a baby in many ways. It is not uncommon for him to announce that he even wants to be a baby again.
Ways of helping in dealing with divorce
Effects long-term and shot-term
Effects Differ depending on gender
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