Children and Dealing with Separation
Some people say children are relatively unaffected by their parent’s absence, but studies indicate that is not a true statement. Children experience the same psychological pattern as the caretaker or parent, due to their own feeling of loss and their own awareness, conscious and unconscious, of the parent’s overall emotional situation. They are, generally, upset when the parent is, and calm when the parent is. Children often test the parent left behind to find out if he or she will bend more than both parents are at home. This will be more apparent when the service member firsts leaves and again when they return.
Some parents overcompensate for the absence of the other and become permissive and or overprotective with the children. Rules once ironclad are now changed. Some decisions are harder to make alone. This creates a different environment for the children. They become caught between two worlds, juggling their behavior according to whether or not the other parent is home. Both parents must be consistent in their discipline of the children.
When the service member returns, children behave in a variety of ways, happy hugs and kisses, squeal of welcome, but also feelings of hurt, anger, resentment and hostility. Child psychologists say ALL children have both positive and negative feelings toward the returning parent. That’s okay, as long as the feelings are dealt with honestly.
Children need stability. Put yourself in the place of your children and think about how they might feel if one parent was constantly coming and going, here two weeks, gone for eight months, home two days, wouldn’t your security be shaken a little? Imagine what it does to the children.
Children express their feelings in different ways, and their outward behavior is not always a good reflection of what’s going on emotionally. Some children cover up their feelings, others are more open. Insecurity, loss of status, and change in routine all add up to complex emotions, hurt and anger which are usually directed at the returning parent. They also feel love, pride, need and security, which causes ambivalence. They just can’t understand what’s happening.
A few things that parents can do to easy some of the emotions are as follows:
MAKING SURE CHILDREN KNOW THEY ARE LOVED
LET YOUR CHILDREN HELP AROUND THE HOUSE
HELP CHILDREN MARK THE PASSING OF TIME