Conflicting divorces can be very difficult for a child. It can have adverse effects on children ranging from complete distrust to anxiety issues. Doctors say that if the correct steps are taken, a child can come out of the transition pretty well.
John D’lima (name changed) is a 10-year-old boy who was known to be naughty, bright kid. But for the past four months he has been quite different. He has been undergoing counselling at a city hospital for various reasons from anxiety to suspicion.
“It all started when John’s parents chose to get divorced. Bitter divorces like this can really change a kid’s temperament and mood in various ways. It can lead the child to question the institutions of marriage and family, due to distorted images of a previously presented happy family,” said Dr Parul Tank, Consultant Psychiatrist at Asian Heart, Mumbai and Fortis Hospital who is also the head of the psychiatry department at Rajawadi Hospital.
His parents have been married for ten years. About 4 years ago, they decided to part ways. Trouble began when his mother was given the custody of the child, since then the father has been fighting to get joint custody, instead just having visitation custody.
“A problem occurs when dysfunctionality in the family is reflected in the eyes of the child. Bitter divorces can lead children to have multiple issues such as anxiety disorder, issues of attachments, etc,” added Dr Tank.
In such cases, doctors say the custodians of children also need to be counselled. “For the past three months, even his mother comes to me for counselling. This is important because the kids can’t understand this sudden instability in their life,” she added.
Experts further say that children find it confusing when they see their parents having a conflict with each other, due to divorce. Dr Harish Shetty, Consulting Psychiatrist at Dr LH Hiranandani Hospital, Powai, said, “Single parenthood is never the problem. Every child needs a healthy parent for a good childhood. A problem arises in case of a conflict between the parents. A lot of them may end up believing that life is full of fights, anger, sadness, suspicion etc.”
The behaviour of the parents also can be very different towards the children, given that there is a lot of stress on them. “One should understand that such behaviour can be due to the parents being over indulgent or extremely detached. The idea should be to present a wholesome picture to the children,” added Dr Shetty.
Our country is luckily opening up on issues of marriage and divorce now, which is encouraging say psychiatrists. “India is in an era of disclosure. If the right questions are asked, we are ready to give the correct answer,” added Dr Shetty.