Child custody disputes and kids’ separation anxiety

In New Jersey as elsewhere, the uncertainties revolving around new living arrangements can give rise to very real symptoms of separation anxiety in children. When child custody disputes place kids in a ‘holding pattern,’ divorcing parents should be on the look-out for those symptoms that point to a need for some extra attention being paid to reducing their children’s fear. Although all children can suffer from separation anxiety, research has shown that elementary-school age children of divorced parents can experience a greater number of issues relating to separation anxiety than children living with parents who stayed together.

Bedwetting, nightmares, and headaches that begin when a child first learns of a divorce (or senses a problem between the parents) may be symptoms of separation anxiety. Children complaining of stomach pain or discomfort may also be showing physical signs of heightened separation anxiety. Although it can be unwise to allow any physical ailment affecting a child to go unchecked by a doctor, divorcing parents may discover that anxiety over a pending divorce and the subsequent living arrangements can be a contributing factor.

Once a custody dispute is resolved and the living arrangements are settled into, children can begin to regain the emotional stability they need. Until that happens, however, divorcing parents need to make an extra effort to reassure their kids that the period of uncertainty that they are going through is a temporary one and that they will not be ‘losing’ the parent who does not have primary custody. What can be particularly beneficial to children feeling anxious over a divorce is both parents finding ways that they carry on with high levels of connection to their kids — and reassuring them that these connections will continue.

Parents considering divorce should expect their children to experience separation anxiety issues, especially if a child custody dispute ensues. To help kids get through the often frightening period of uncertainty that will precede their settling into the new living arrangements, divorcing parents should think carefully about what will work out best for their kids. Being well-prepared before the legal proceedings begin can help ensure a more positive outcome and divorcing parents would do well to consider the benefits of conferring with someone both knowledgeable and experienced in New Jersey divorce and custody laws as a means of protecting their children’s best interests.

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