No spouse enters a marriage or parenthood thinking they’re signing up for a part-time job. It’s understandable then, that once the divorce process is underway, parents can easily become emotionally blindsided. But in these cases, it’s the children who take the brunt of the damage during the fallout.
While spouses experience the end of a union and begin to reconstruct their identities, children feel as if they are losing an entire way of life. I know, because I’ve been there.
And while it’s ultimately no one’s fault, when it comes down to it, the oldest child usually has an oddly heavy burden to bear when it comes to a divorce. It’s unintentional, but here are a few struggles oldest children sometimes face during divorce:
They feel the need to mediate
The first thing to know is that no one sets out to deliberately hurt their children. However, children are extremely perceptive and absorb subtle emotional cues like sponges.
When the split began happening in my household, it was easy to pick up on awkward silences or microaggressions. And it didn’t matter if it was in the privacy of our own home or in public, I felt the need to cut in and break the tension. Sometimes it was a joke, other times it was confrontation - anything to bring the focus away from each other.
Some parents treat them as a co-spouse
Sometimes - not all of the time - one parent will begin relying on their oldest child for support, almost the same way they relied on their spouse. This can be emotional support - oversharing details of the divorce, confiding deep emotional perceptions… And that child will listen because all children want their parents to be happy.
They feel the need to co-parent
Oldest children spend the most time with their parents. As they grow, they begin imitating their parents when it comes to interacting with their younger siblings. However, once a rift begins between what was once the united front of their parents, oldest children become protective of their siblings. This results in feeling the need to shield them from the divorce.
They emotionally isolate themselves
This is common with all children of divorce but often happens with the oldest. Having their family’s identity come into question, oldest children become slightly reclusive and hide their real emotions and thoughts from parents and teachers.
“How can I combat all of this?”
While you can’t wave a magic wand and make everything perfect for your family, there are ways you can help protect your children as best you can from the emotional turmoil of a divorce.
- Remind your children that they always have emotional support available to them.
- Remember your boundaries! You are the parent, no matter your marital status. There are concepts involved in a divorce that a child is not mature enough to process.
- Remind your child to be a child! They should focus on school, their hobbies, and their friends. Let the parents figure everything else out.
At The Buncher Law Corporation, we understand that when it comes to Family Law, we aren’t just working with one client, but a whole family. Always sensitive to the needs and concerns of the men and women we represent, our Irvine firm has a strong reputation for extraordinary customer service. We strive to make our clients feel at ease every time they walk in through our doors.
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