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Does divorce and child custody require grief process for kids?

Parents in Connecticut who go through divorce have a different set of priorities than couples who do not have children. Often, the primary focus of divorcing parents is to make the child custody transition as easy as possible for their kids. One recently published article likens divorce to the death of a loved one, at least in the eyes of a child, and suggests that kids move through a grieving process as they come to terms with the shift within the family.

Under this model, parents might expect a child to exhibit a kind of shock when they first learn of the divorce. They may be in denial about the changes ahead, and should be reassured by both parents that while many things will change, the love between a parent and child always endures. Next, they may move into a phase in which anger is their primary emotion. While this can be distressing to the family as a whole, this phase will pass, and children should be shown love and support as they move through the anger stage.

Once anger abates, kids often move through a period of sadness as they begin to accept that their family is changing. Parents must remain attentive during this time and monitor for signs of depression versus simple sadness. Shortly after this stage, kids may begin to try and bargain for change, such as making promises to change their behavior if the parents agree to stay together. They might also have a great many questions about the changes ahead, which is a sign that they are moving toward the final stage of the process, which is acceptance.

Once kids in Connecticut begin to accept that their parents are going to follow through with the divorce, the process becomes far easier for everyone to weather. At that point, focus can turn toward planning for the child custody changes ahead, rather than lamenting that the family will no longer reside within the same home. The emphasis from that point forward becomes adapting to the changes, rather than fighting against the inevitable. 

Source: fremonttribune.com, "Children Go Through the Grief Cycle During Divorce or Separation", Lisa Poppe, May 13, 2015

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