Toddlers are still in need of bonding and attachment. Thus, divorce may create regressive, needy behavior in toddlers, as a reaction to feelings of abandonment. When a parent leaves the home for good, it can be very disturbing, and visitation can cause both clinging and aggressive behavior. Parents can minimize the negative impact by working together, as a team.
Here are some tips for parents of toddlers:
- Engage in age-appropriate conversations with your toddler. You must support your toddler by explaining that there will be a divorce and that one parent will not be living at home. This conversation should happen before the divorce occurs.
- Assure your toddler that he is not to blame for the separation.
- Reassure your toddler that though you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse no longer wish to live together, you both love him.
- Don't burden your child with your own emotional problems.
- Never criticize the other parent or fight in front of your toddler.
- Don't put your toddler in a loyalty bind. That double-bind will only backfire on your toddler, causing tension, stress, and emotional problems.
- Stabilize your toddler as quickly as possible by sticking to routine and being consistent with your discipline.
- Keep a structured schedule for your home routine and for parental visits. This will give your toddler a routine that he can count on -- that alone can help re-establish security.
- Talk with your toddler about his concerns and allow him to talk to others. Secrets are suppressed feelings that can cause emotional problems.
Above all, shower your toddler with love. You can never love your child too much, and a divorce is a time when he will need your love and security the most.