Heart-Rending Proof There's NEVER a Good Time for Parents to Divorce; DIVORCE: THE TOXIC TRUTH; from Babies to Teens, Britain's Most Respected Parenting Guru Reveals the Shattering Effect of Family Break-Ups -- and How You Can Try to Ease the Pain

Daily Mail (London), June 26, 2014 | Go to article overview

Heart-Rending Proof There's NEVER a Good Time for Parents to Divorce; DIVORCE: THE TOXIC TRUTH; from Babies to Teens, Britain's Most Respected Parenting Guru Reveals the Shattering Effect of Family Break-Ups -- and How You Can Try to Ease the Pain


Byline: Penelope Leach

THE break-up of a family isn't an event; it's a process -- and often a very long and slow one. Even if one partner has left home, swearing 'That's it', almost certainly he'll have to come back. He'll be round for his stuff, for agonising conversations, rows and accusations -- and maybe he'll have moments of nostalgic regret when the toddler he's left behind holds up her arms to greet him.

This is adult business at its most intense. And if you're going through it, you won't have much attention to spare for anyone or anything else -- including your children. But family breakdown is children's business, too.

At the same time, wishful thinking may make you under-estimate the impact of your separation on them. New research suggests you're most likely to under-rate just how much it's affecting the two age groups at the extremes of childhood: babies and toddlers at one end, and teenagers and young adults at the other.

It's much less likely that you'll miss signs of unhappiness, bewilderment and anger in schoolage children. They usually make it all too clear that something's bothering them, though they are often reluctant to talk about it.

So, divorcing parents should try not to think about their children collectively as 'the kids', which implies they're all going through the same problems. They're not.

Instead, parents need to concentrate on each child as a separate person, at a different stage of development, who has their own needs.

BABIES

YOU may believe that as long as your baby is being adequately cared for by familiar people, he or she will be unaffected by adult upheavals.

But the truth is that your sixmonth-old needs at least as much thought and attention as the fouryear-old who's wetting himself or refusing to go to nursery.

Above all, a baby needs to attach himself to at least one particular adult who is devoted to him.

If he has no such person, receives minimal or inappropriate adult attention or lives in a home full of anger or even violence, then his brain structure and chemistry will begin to adapt defensively.

He may develop strong fear and anger reactions or intense attack and defence impulses in the deep, primitive part of his brain.

'Silver divorces couples up 45 per a If, as the weeks pass, his brain continues to be suffused with stress hormones, he may start to become hyper-vigilant and disproportionately upset by small things.

On the other hand, when a mother (it's usually the mother, but it can be the father or someone else who is the primary care-giver) cuddles and plays with the baby, listens to him, laughs with him and comforts him, the connections that form in his brain will be very different.

Indeed, he'll be well on the way to becoming someone who can cope with emotional extremes and form close relationships with people.

The more a mother tunes into her baby's feelings, the more likely it is that a secure attachment will grow. And this is key, because attachment is a survival mechanism.

Every baby needs at least one special person to attach himself to (two are even better). In the first year of life, that's usually his mother.

Studies show it's the principal caregiver's loving response to a baby during his first months that raises the levels of the feel-good hormone serotonin in his rapidly developing brain. If a mother or father is too depressed, sad or angry to behave normally, then the baby's serotonin levels may remain low. In short, secure attachment to his mother or other primary care-giver is crucial to a baby's brain development and therefore to his whole future.

And once a baby/mother attachment is under way, losing it -- partially or completely -- will delay or distort that development.

So, if your marriage or partnership is disintegrating when your baby is under a year old, you need to be hyper-aware of the very real risk of negative effects on him. …

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Heart-Rending Proof There's NEVER a Good Time for Parents to Divorce; DIVORCE: THE TOXIC TRUTH; from Babies to Teens, Britain's Most Respected Parenting Guru Reveals the Shattering Effect of Family Break-Ups -- and How You Can Try to Ease the Pain
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