On behalf of Jacquelyn S. Gonz, Attorney at Law LLC posted in family law on Friday, MArch 1, 2019.

As children age, they learn to express their emotions better. A seven-year-old scream when they want a specific toy in Target while a 13-year old explains why they have a poor grade in Math. They clearly state what they are feeling or what they want. It’s harder for a toddler to do that.

A toddler relies on a limited vocabulary or understanding of the world around them. They may use the word “fry” to indicate when they are hungry or when they see a French fry. It’s up to the parents to interpret their child’s reaction and help them.

During a divorce, a toddler does not understand the changing environment. They only recognize the physical signs of separation. For example, a toddler may constantly ask where their mom is. The father may answer, but the child asks again only a few hours later. They don’t comprehend time nor the dynamics of their parents’ relationship. They just know that mom is not here.

It’s up to the parents to help their toddler transition into their new situation without additional trauma. There are a few ways to make the transition smoother, such as:

  • Encourage emotions – most toddlers cannot control their emotions. They can be blissfully happy one minute and crying the next. It’s up to each parent to encourage their child to express their emotions and help them comprehend their feelings.
  • Recognize signs of stress – since a toddler cannot tell you when they are stress, you have to know the signs of stress. Common signals of stress include increased crying, changes in sleep patterns, loss of appetite and behavioral changes. It may look different for each child.
  • Maintain consistency – daily routines are beneficial for a child’s development. They know exactly when to wake up, when to eat and when to play. If that routine is broken, it will cause stress for the toddler. Parents have to slowly transition into new habits and try to maintain the same schedule, even if it’s in separate homes.
  • Provide affection from both parents – toddlers want to spend quality time with their parents, but a divorce makes it easy for one parent to spend more time with the child. Both parents need to be a presence in the child’s life and provide affection to ease their child’s anxieties and fear.

Divorce is not only confusing for toddlers; it’s a confusing period for adults too. Do not forget to take time to help yourself transition into a new phase into your life. It will help you become a better parent and a better person overall.