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These 17 Life Skills Will Teach Your Kids Responsibility

These 17 Life Skills Will Teach Your Kids Responsibility

Teaching our children life skills that help them become responsible human beings is not something that can happen in a day or a week. It takes time, effort, and consistency in teaching them these skills over their entire childhood.

It is helpful to start when they are very young and build on their skills as they age. The more skills that are built, the more you have helped to raise a responsible adult going into the world.

Children will grow up, as time continues on whether we want it to or not, so it is our job as parents to teach them the skills that will make them responsible in adulthood. It is a process that takes years and dedication to helping your child develop these skills.

Below are 17 skills that you should help your child learn before they become adults and go into the world on their own.

1. The Ability to Cook

Every child needs to learn to cook before they leave home as adults. If they can’t cook for themselves, then they will be wasting money on going out to eat. They will also be more likely to eat less healthy foods, since processed meals require less cooking skills and can be microwaved.

Teaching them to cook entails the ability to use a stove first. Make sure they are old enough before allowing them to help at the stove. Safety first.

They can help with mixing ingredients and measuring ingredients from a very young age. Teaching them to cook, as they grow up and their own skills develop is helpful. As they mature, you can teach them more complicated cooking methods.

By the time they leave home, they should know how to use a stove and oven. They should be equipped with the skills to read a recipe and know how to follow any recipe. When you use recipes at home, walk them through the process, so you can help them learn these cooking skills. As you cook with your child, you can explain what specific cooking words in recipes mean, such as basting, sifting, and how to use measuring tools.

Teaching your child to cook is not a one time experience. It should be part of their journey into adulthood and the best way to help them learn this skill is to have them help with meals on a weekly basis. Each time they cook with you, take the time to explain what you are doing and why, so they can learn something new in the kitchen.

The ability to cook is something that can then grow and flourish in their adulthood. What a gift to teach your daughter or son the love of cooking and how to do it correctly!

2. How to Do Their Own Laundry

When I went off to college, I didn’t know how to use a washer or dryer. I had hung clothing on the clotheslines, folded, and put away literally thousands of loads of laundry growing up. However, the washer and dryer at our home were off limits for anyone except our parents to use.

I was about four weeks into college life when I became in desperate need of clean laundry. I had no choice but to go to the laundry facility on campus and try to figure it out. Thankfully, there was a young man there who knew what he was doing. He taught me how to use the machines and which products to use. He also suggested I purchase dryer sheets to prevent wrinkles in my clothing.

I am grateful for the time that he took to teach me how to use the machines and which products to use. I had the folding and putting away skills, so using the machines was the last component needed.

Before your kids leave home, teach them how to use a washer and dryer, so that they feel confident in going to a laundry mat and doing their own laundry. You should also teach them how to properly fold and put away the clean laundry. The best way to teach them is to have them do it themselves with you telling them how is done in a kind and helpful manner.

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Have your child fold laundry with you. Show them how to use your machines at home. Making laundry a part of their regular chores will help them develop responsibility while also helping you with the household workload.

3. Fiscal Responsibility

Children need to learn how to manage money so they can manage their money wisely as adults. You will find some kids are savers and some are spenders. That’s okay, but there is also a balance.

Teaching them how to be financially responsible with their money in childhood, teaches them how to be fiscally responsible as adults. One resource that is a great help is Dave Ramsey’s courses and books. Dave Ramsey is one of the best money educators in the world. His resources have been used by millions. They have online and in-person courses for adults. The website also has resources for parents to purchase to use with their teens and younger children.[1]

4. The Art of Small Talk

Small talk is essential to life responsibility. How is your child ever going to survive a job interview if they don’t know the art of small talk?

This basic skill is the foundation of social skills. They need to be able to know how to start up small talk with anyone. This is how friends and connections are made. Their ability to start a conversation through small talk is one of the most valuable skills they can leave home with. If they know how to start up friendly conversations with anyone, they will become more confident each time they use this skill. It leads to social confidence in all that they may pursue in life.

Someday they may meet with the President of a country. If they are confident in their ability to make small talk and have done it thousands of times, then the most important meeting of their life can be successful because they walk into the situation with confidence and the skills to socialize through small talk. Here’re 9 Ways To Make Small Talk that you can teach your child.

5. Typing Skills

My kids are always amazed with my ability to type fast on my laptop. I always tell them that it is something that they will learn to do too. “Someday you will type this fast too”, is what I often say to them.

Whether they enter the work force or head off to University as adults, they need to be able to type. The world is run digitally. Being able to type and use a keyboard are as essential as being able to speak the language where they live.

Can they survive in adulthood not being able to type fast? Sure, it’s absolutely possible. But if you want them to be successful and responsible, then teaching them how to type is essential. For almost every job, there is a digital component to that job. Being able to use that digital device and having the ability to type is essential. The more competent they are with their typing skills the better.

Being able to use a laptop and smart phone are very important, but those skills seem to come much more naturally to kids than to adults. They can figure out how to navigate an iPad or tablet with little to no direction in preschool. It is much more instinctual to them.

Let them learn these things when they are young, because they will need these skills in adulthood whether they want to work in an office, fill out a dating profile online someday, or write their own blog. The ability to type is essential for successful and responsible adulting.

6. How to Set and Achieve Goals

We must teach our children how to set and achieve goals if we want them to be responsible adults. They don’t need to set their life goals at age 12. But it is helpful for them to set goals that pertain to their life and the age that they are at.

Teaching them to do this when they are young, equips them with goal setting skills which are essential to being successful and responsible adults. Kids of any age can set short term and long term goals. You may need to help them with this process the first few times.

A great model to utilize with your children for goal setting is the SMART method. This Lifehack article can teach you How to Set Smart Goals. Learn this method for yourself, so you can also use it with your children.

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7. How to Stay Healthy Through Exercise and Good Eating Habits

Responsibility toward our body is fundamental to survival. If we can’t take care of our body, then we won’t live a healthy life and likely will limit how long we live. It is up to us as parents to teach our children about healthy eating habits and the importance of exercise. The example of our behavior is one of the most crucial ways that our children learn about leading a healthy lifestyle.

Here are some other ways you can teach your child about being responsible and caring properly for their body:[2]

1. Eat at least one meal a day as a family
2. Get your children outside and involved
3. Turn off the technology
4. Focus on extracurricular activities
5. Never use food as a reward
6. Make sure their school offers daily, quality Physical Education

8. Dressing Correctly

Being responsible for your clothing and appearance is important. If you walk around with missing buttons, you aren’t going to be very respected where you work. Your appearance is the walking billboard or who you are, whether you like it or not.

First impressions are often based on appearance. Being clean with unwrinkled clothing that matches and is also appropriate for the occasion is an essential life skill. If you show up to a job interview for an office job in a wet suit they will likely think you are crazy and you won’t be offered the job. This may seem like an extreme example, but showing up in a wetsuit for a job interview is just as bad as showing up to an office job interview in ragged jeans and a wrinkled old t-shirt.

What you wear on your body shows to others around you what you are saying about yourself. Do you respect yourself? Do you respect the event you are attending? Do you respect the people that you are meeting? Attending a formal wedding in jeans is not cool. This happens when adults are not taught the importance of their appearance and wearing clothing that is appropriate for the occasion during their childhood.

Teach them by your own example, but also be directing them in what they wear from a young age, so that they don’t make these big mistakes regarding their appearance in adulthood. This doesn’t mean you force them to dress a certain way every day. It does mean you provide guidance and explain to them the social nuisances of dressing for every occasion.

9. How to Use Tools and Do Basic Repairs

When your child leaves your home as an adult, they better know how to use a hammer and nails, change lightbulbs, and how to use different kids of screw drivers.

Things happen in life and being able to respond with basic repair skills is essential. This includes sewing.

For example, if your child is headed to their first day of classes and they are missing a button on their only clean shirt, what are they going to do? Duct tape it or sew it back on? If you have taught them correctly, they should know how to use needle and thread to sew on buttons and make basic repairs to their own clothing.

If the faceplate on an outlet in their apartment comes off, do they know what kind of screwdriver to use and how to screw the plate back onto the wall, rather than leaving dangerous electrical wires hang from the wall? Basic skills require some basic teachings while they are growing up and in your care. If a screw falls out of one of their toys, use it as an opportunity to teach them how to use a screwdriver to put it back into place.

When you teach them these skills early in life, you are teaching them to be responsible for their belongings and home. You are also equipping them with the skills to do basic repairs on their own.

10. Time Management

Kids start learning time management from an early age. Are we teaching them to procrastinate getting ready in the morning and then they rush out the door, only to forget their school lunch and arrive late anyway? Or are we teaching our children to budget their time in the morning, so that they know they should be dressed by 7:00 am, by 7:20 they have breakfast finished, and by 7:30 they have all their belongings collected and are by the door ready to depart for school?

Time management at a young age teaches them how to manage their time for the future.

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Letting them sleep in after you have attempted to  get them up the morning five times already, is counterproductive to teaching them good time management skills. If they have difficulty waking each morning, then they probably need to go to bed earlier. Teaching them to wake up consistently at a time that allows them to get ready and not feel rushed is important to helping teach long term time management skills. The same goes for getting to bed on time. These are the two most important factors that will affect their ability to get to their job on time as adults.

Teach them by your own example that it is more important to arrive early than to arrive late. Consistency in your own behavior goes a lot further than anything you can ever say to your child about time management.

11. How to Respond in an Emergency

Every child must know how to respond in an emergency in order to be a responsible adult. Does your child know how to call 911? That is usually the most basic skill that we can teach them about emergency response.

The next would be first aid response and CPR skills. There are babysitting courses for young teens where these CPR and first aid skills are taught.

Getting them enrolled in a first aid and CPR class, even if it is a one-day event, can greatly prepare them to be responsible in responding to emergency situations. You never know what may happen to them in life. Perhaps they have a job caring for children in college and one of those children chokes on a snack. Will they know what to do without panicking? Will they only call 911 or will be have the skills needed to perform the Heimlich Maneuver? These are skills that are priceless because they can save someone’s life someday.

To find a CPR and First Aid Class for your teen go to the Red Cross Training Services Website and enter your zip code to find classes near you. You will also find on this site that babysitting classes are offered, so your teen can learn how to respond in emergency situations when caring for children.

12. How to Clean a Home

Teaching your children not only how to clean a home, but also the importance of keeping a clean and organized home are wonderful skills that can help them become responsible adults.

If they have no clue how to clean a toilet when they leave home, they may never notice how dirty their apartment toilet is until a guest points it out to them. When you teach your children cleaning skills, you are also teaching them to notice where dirt, dust, and grime tend to collect in a home.

Teach them to clean by talking them through each task the first time they do the task. For example, mopping the kitchen floor. Teach them how to use the mop, what kind of cleaner to use, and where to find the mop and bucket in your home. Inspect their work when they are done and help guide them. Perhaps they missed the corners. You can praise them for cleaning the main area of the floor and then show them how to effectively get the mop into the corners.

Assigning them household cleaning chores that are to be done each week is a very good way to teach them responsibility. They are not only learning how to clean, but they are also learning how to be a part of a team. Your family is a team, so each person needs to take part in keeping the household up and running effectively, which includes having a clean home.

13. Pump Gas

If your teen becomes a licensed driver, you need to teach them how to pump their own gas. Full station gas stations are mostly a thing of the past. If you can find one, great, but it is not the norm these days. Teens need to know how to refuel a vehicle if they are a licensed driver. This is such a basic skill, but one that is often forgotten by parents.

Not all gas pumps are the same and they are not exactly self explanatory either. Take a few minutes and teach your children how to pump gas after they get their driver’s license.

Responsibility is also refilling the gas tank after they used the family car all weekend for their personal activities. Whether they use their money or your money is something you need to define with them. However, knowing how to actually use a gas pump is essential to the process. You don’t want them to be out on the highway running out of gas and then calling you because they didn’t even think to look at the gas gauge since they don’t know how to refill the gas tank.

Help them learn to be responsible with their vehicle usage, by learning how to refill the gas.

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14. Use Public Transportation

Public transportation, whether it is using Uber, a Taxi, or the local bus system is an essential skill to have.

For example, what if your 18 year-old daughter is on a date someday while away at college and her date becomes intoxicated. She knows she shouldn’t ride home with him, but she also doesn’t know how to get a cab or request a ride from Uber. What if the friends she calls are not available and the restaurant is closing? What will she do? Teach her how to use public transportation methods before she gets stuck in a bad situation. This is teaching your children responsibility.

If you are traveling to a different city and you are going to use the subway, then have them help figure out how to get to and from your destination. Teach them how to hail a cab when they are teens and you are together. That way they can do it on their own someday when needed.

15. Stick Up for Themselves

Children need to learn how to advocate for themselves, this is teaching them life responsibility. A day will come when their mom or dad is not there to fight their battles for them. They need to practice advocating and sticking up for themselves in childhood, so they can be prepared to do so in adulthood.

For example, if you have a teen who feels that they are being treated unfairly by a coach, it should be something that they talk to their coach about first. If you, as a parent, need to intervene later when things don’t get resolved, then do so. But for the initial talk with the coach, it should be the teen approaching the coach to discuss the issue, not the parent. You may need to help prepare your child with what they need to say and some key points to bring up, but then they can talk to the coach themselves. They need to learn how to advocate from themselves.

From a young age, parents need to allow children to stick up for themselves, so they are prepared to be their own advocates for the big things in life. Someday they may be laying in a hospital bed and they need to advocate for themselves to get the right medical treatments needed. If they haven’t been equipped with these skills earlier in life, then they will suffer in the long run.

16. Be a Team Play and Good Helper

Being a good team member is essential in life. We all need to work well with others in order to become successful.

Being a good team player should start in the home. They are part of team family. This means that they learn to be a helper in the home and part of making the household run well. They can be given weekly chores and task to complete that help with the running of the household.

Having them play in team sports also helps them learn to be a team player. Being a good team player and knowing how to help others is crucial to becoming responsible adults and productive members of society.

17. Have Good Manners

Good manners and being well behaved go hand in hand. A child who has learned good manners knows how to act in a responsible way in public. Children who grow up without guidance on how to act in different social settings can act socially irresponsible as adults.

For example, good manners includes bringing flowers or wine to a dinner party when you are a guest invited to a formal dinner party. If your child hasn’t been taught these things and they show up empty handed and dressed like they are headed for the beach, then they risk offending their host. Teaching a child good manners goes a long way in creating socially responsible adults.

The development of manners starts in the home. It is more than teaching them what silverware to use at a dinner party. Good manners also includes showing respect for others and using polite words such as please and thank you.

Respect for others is crucial to being a responsible adult. Those adults who don’t know how to respect others were likely not taught at an early age good manners or the importance of treating others as we want to be treated.

The Bottom Line

Raising children is more than feeding and clothing our children and ensuring they get a good education. Parenting involves teaching our children life skills that prepare them for adulthood. Starting young is best, but then again, it is never too late to start teaching anyone these valuable life skills.

More About Parenting

Featured photo credit: Sai De Silva via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dr. Magdalena Battles

A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

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Published on August 13, 2020

The Effects of Divorce on Children No Parents Should Ignore

The Effects of Divorce on Children No Parents Should Ignore

If you are parent who has gone through divorce, this article is not intended to make you feel guilty. Instead, the purpose is to help you recognize the effects of divorce on children in order to face them in the best possible way.

If there are problems or issues with your child as a result of the divorce, there is hope. There is help available. The first step is recognizing any effects the divorce has had which caused your child to have social, emotional, physical, or cognitive issues. Behavioral issues are the most common signal that your child is not coping well with the divorce situation.

Some kids go though divorce and are not adversely affected. Even in situations when things are very tumultuous during the divorce, a child can appear unaffected. There are other children who are traumatized and exhibit emotional and/or behavioral problems when their parents’ divorce has been calm and amicable. It goes to show that the a child’s reaction to divorce greatly varies from one child to the next.

A 2014 study cited that, in evaluating three decades of research, children are statistically better off emotionally, mentally, and physically if their parents can stick together, stay married, and work through their problems[1]. The only exception to this is if abuse is present.

However, it doesn’t always work out that way. Divorce is a reality in our culture and world today. Therefore, we need to be more aware of how a divorce may affect our children, recognizing signs if there are any issues with your child, and then getting them the help that is needed. It is difficult to help a child with a problem if you don’t first recognize that it exists.

This article is help you better identify behavioral problems that may stem from unprocessed emotions associated with a divorce.

You can do all the right things, meaning you get the child counseling, keep them out of the adult issues, and share parenting duties amicably, yet the child can still have behavioral issues. Therefore, even if you have checked all the boxes and done all the things to protect your child during the divorce, you should still be aware of the potential for problems with your child as a result.

Every child is different. You can have two children in the same household, and one appears to process the divorce fine, and the other has apparent behavioral issues that arise as a consequence of the divorce. This is not uncommon. It is because every person is different and unique, as is their ability to cope with stress, anxiety, and major life changes.

There is no guilt needed or shaming involved. If you are divorced, you are not alone. In fact, you are part of a growing cohort of people around the world. With the high number of divorces in countries around the world, and children being affected, we need to prepare ourselves with information on the effects of divorce on children and learn to recognize when our children need help.

How Children Think About Divorce

Kids don’t think logically. They lack the world experience and knowledge that adults possess. This means that when things like divorce occur, they may not have logical thoughts about what is happening to their family.

There are children who will think it is their fault, or that if they act better or try harder that their parents will stay together. Not all children will think this way, but many will have thoughts that are not logical, rational, or healthy.

It is imperative that adults have conversations with their children so that the child knows that the divorce and situation is not their fault. Parents should have a cohesive plan on how to talk to their children about divorce. Dr. Kevin D. Arnold, PhD, explains that parents should help their children process the emotions they have about divorce:

“Parents desire to shield their children from pain, let alone want to cause their babies to suffer. But, suffering happens. Divorcing parents have an opportunity to teach their children how to handle pain effectively. In every dire circumstance exists the chance to learn and grow; parents who use divorce as one such chance can help their children learn this fundamental truth.”[2]

It is not about protecting our children from the divorce, because if divorce is imminent, then it is a reality of the child’s world. The key is helping children effectively navigate and process their feelings and emotions as they go through this major change in their family.

Sadness and Other Feelings

For children, one of the most common reactions to divorce is sadness, according to Dr. Lori Rappaport[3]. Children will cry and often act sad as their parents go through a divorce. This sadness can sometimes lead to depression, and those signs should be identified so that professional help can be be sought.

Such signs can include loss of interest in activities, inability to sleep, sleeping too much, suddenly having problems with academics, fighting, or getting in trouble at school for behavioral issues. There are other signs as well.

Some children will actually feel relieved that their parents are getting divorced. In many homes where divorce occurs, there is a high level of emotional conflict. The children of high-conflict parents will often feel relief that the arguments and conflict will be coming to an end in the home.

Likely, there is usually a mix of emotions. They feel sad and relieved. They can experience these feelings back and forth over time as they process the divorce, which usually takes years.

Many children of divorce will also feel frightened because they don’t know what their life is going to look like in the future. Their future is filled with uncertainty. They also will feel angry that their family is changing and that they may have to make major life adjustments, such as a new home or a new school.

It’s normal for children to have these emotions. What is not the norm, and requires intervention, is when children have behavioral issues that affect the way they function in daily life.

At What Age Are Kids Affected by Divorce?

Kids are affected by divorce at any age. Even adults who have their parents divorce later in life can be adversely affected. According to Dr. Rappaport, even babies and toddlers can be affected by divorce. The separation from one parent when they have to go to another parent’s home can cause separation anxiety for a baby or toddler.

Knowing that anyone at any age can be affected by parental divorce means that we must not exclude children when assessing the effects of a divorce. Just because they are old enough to understand does not mean that they automatically have the coping skills to adjust in a healthy and appropriate manner.

The same is true for young children. Just because they are young and do not fully understand what is going on does not mean that they won’t be affected. Major changes in a young child’s routine because of divorce can cause them distress, which can result in things such as regression.

Signs That Your Child Is Not Coping Well

When a child is not coping well with their emotions associated with a divorce, it will typically be seen in their behavior. What they don’t express in their words will usually come out in problematic ways. Their behavior will change, and it is for the worse when they are not coping well with the divorce.

It is normal for a child to have emotions, thoughts, and feelings about divorce. It is common for children (research shows between 20-50% of children of divorce have maladjustment) to have behavioral issues because of divorce. However, behavioral problems and maladjustment are signs that a child is not coping well and that professional intervention, such as counseling, is needed.

Below are some of the more common behavioral issues that arise in children when their parents are going through a divorce and they are not coping well. These are not the only behavioral issues that can present, but are some of the more common.

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Regression

This behavior is more often seen in younger children. For example, children who are already potty-trained will begin having accidents or wetting their bed at night. They may resume thumb sucking or other babyish behavior that they had previously outgrown. Regression is a sign that a child is not coping well with the situation and some professional help may be needed. For younger children, play therapy can be helpful.

Developmental Delays

Children who have been achieving their milestones normally and then begin to exhibit delays should be assessed. For example, a baby who sat up and crawled at a normal age of development, but who is now clingy and not walking at 24 months should be taken to their pediatrician for assessment.

Needy Behavior

Young children who cannot express themselves in words will often show behavioral indications when something is bothering them. For a child going through divorce, some forms of neediness can be normal. They want to spend more time with their parents when they get time with them. They may cry more frequently when they transition from home to daycare or from one parent’s home to the other.

When it comes to the effects of divorce on children, parents need to be aware of the neediness behaviors that can arise. If they become disruptive to daily life, then a child psychologist or counselor may need to be consulted. They will have some solutions and be able to assess a family’s unique situation. Parents must recognize that extreme neediness is not normal, and help should be sought in such a case.

Temper Tantrums or Outbursts

Temper tantrums are normal for children under the age of five. In fact they are quite common for 2-3 year olds. However, in some cases where a divorce is happening, the tantrums become far more frequent. For children over the of five, they can regress and begin having temper tantrums once again. It is an indication that their situation is overwhelming them, and they are having difficulty coping.

For older children, such as teens, they may have emotional outbursts. These outbursts can be characterized with screaming, yelling, obstinance, and a lack of logic and rational thought while they are in this state.

If these behaviors are present outside of the normal age-appropriate temper tantrums, then counseling or professional help should be sought for the child so that they can learn to process their feelings and emotions in a healthy manner.

Getting in Trouble at School

Children who have previously not been trouble makers at school and then begin a pattern of getting in trouble with authority should not be ignored. Their behavior is a way of acting out for attention or as a channel for their emotions. They may be feeling angry about their parents divorce.

When asked about the divorce, they tell their parents they are fine and that everything is okay. They don’t know how to properly express how they are feeling, and they instead repress their emotions. Then, when things get tough at school, they act out by kicking the child’s chair in front of them or pushing their classmates.

They do these behaviors as a channel or avenue for them to get out their anger. However, this is not a healthy way for them to process their anger towards the divorce. They should be taught by a professional how to talk and process their anger appropriately.

Fighting With Other Kids

Along with getting in trouble at school, some children will turn their anger, rage, and stress into aggressiveness toward their peers. They may get in fights and conflict with friends or classmates when, previously, this was never an issue.

Parents should help these children by getting them the help that they need to understand that their feelings are normal and they can talk about it instead of bottling up the anger and then allowing it to explode on others.

Eating Issues

When some children don’t cope well with a divorce situation, they can develop eating problems. For teens, this can be a legitimate eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. For younger children it can even manifest as avoidance of food or extreme picky eating that can lead to an eating disorder such as ARFID (avoidant resistant food intake disorder). This can be one of the most dangerous effects of divorce on children as it can lead to serious health issues.

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Parents should be aware of their children’s changed behavior, and especially eating patterns that may be detrimental to the child’s health in the long term. For some children this can also include binge-eating. They don’t express their feelings in words, and instead they eat to find a sense of comfort. This can lead to health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure if the behavior becomes severe or pervasive over a long time period.

There are treatment programs and counselors that can specifically help if eating problems begin to manifest as a pattern of behavior. Parents must be vigilant and aware of the eating habits of their children, especially when major life changes, such as a divorce, are happening. It is easier to treat such a problem earlier, before the behaviors and habits become ingrained.

Sleep Issues

Children of divorced parents can experience insomnia. They can also sleep too much if they are becoming depressed. Their sleep routines should be consistent from one parent’s home to the other so that they don’t develop disruptive sleep problems. If a child does display significant sleep issues, then a pediatrician’s help should be sought for advice.

Risky Behavior

It is normal for teens to experience some sort of rebellion. However, if that rebellion turns into the form of drug use or running away from home, then professional help must be sought. Risky behavior is a cry for help. Their cry for help should be met with love, care, and a desire to get them the help that they need.

Drop in Academic Performance

Academic performance can fluctuate. However, a severe plummet in grades and academic performance should not be ignored. For example, a child that goes from straight A’s as a motivated student and then drops down to all C’s in one semester’s time is likely having issues coping.

Their academics may be suffering because they are depressed, or they can no longer find the ability to concentrate during class. Parents should help their child, not only with tutoring and academic help alone. The emotional state of their child should be addressed with counseling.

There are likely underlying emotional issues happening when their parents’ divorce, and a significant drop in their academic performance indicates they are not processing their emotions correctly, as it is impeding their academic life.

Suicidal Thoughts

Suicidal thoughts, and especially any suicide attempts, require immediate intervention and help. When someone expresses that they want to die or that they want to kill themselves, these words must always be taken seriously.

There are some teens and pre-teens who “attempt” suicide as a cry for help. Their intention is not death, but instead it is to get their parent’s attention. Unfortunately, some of the “attempts” are successful and result in death. This is why words of wanting death or to commit suicide should always be taken seriously.

You may think that your child would never follow through, but they may do so simply to prove their point, and will, unfortunately, in some instances, be successful. If you have a loved one who has exhibited suicidal behavior or has threatened suicide, there is immediate help via the Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Self-Injury

Professionals are becoming increasingly aware of self-injury and self-mutilation behaviors in teens and pre-teens. Teens tend to hide these behaviors and will cut themselves in places that are less visible, such as their upper thighs or stomach. However, some are more apparent and obvious with their behaviors.

Either way, immediate help should be sought if you have a child who is harming themselves. They are not coping with their mental and emotional stress in a healthy way. Self-harm or self-injury can include cutting, carving into their skin, burning themselves, pulling out their hair, and more.

If you think your child may be harming themselves, they need immediate help. Please go to the Crisis Text Line if you want more information about how children inflict self-harm or if you believe your child is harming themselves. You can reach out to immediate help via that website.

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Incarceration

When teens or pre-teens start getting into trouble and get themselves arrested, it is a cry for help. Don’t ignore their bad behavior and chalk it up to them just being a teen. If they are experiencing the divorce of their parents, this behavior can stem from emotional turmoil that has gone untreated. Even if they did receive some counseling previously, they may likely need help and intervention once again.

Somatic Issues

A common sign of distress in children when they are having emotional problems is somatic issues. This usually exhibits in the form of repeated headaches, stomach pains, or other physical ailments. They can be real or imagined.

Often, the emotions drive the pain or physical ailment to become real. For example, a child may complain of stomach pains daily, especially when they have to transition from one parent’s home to the other. What may begin as an invention in their mind can become real as the body responds to the stress and unresolved emotions in problematic ways.

If your child has repeated physical complaints, such as headaches, stomach pains, or other issues, do not ignore their complaints.

Helping Your Child Become Emotionally Intelligent

Emotionally intelligent people are able to express their feelings and process them in a healthy manner so that they don’t repress emotions. Repressing emotions often leads to behavioral problems, such as those discussed previously.

We can help our children learn to become emotionally intelligent by teaching them how to talk about the way that they feel. It is often a learned behavior that does not come through instinct alone. Children should be taught how to appropriately talk about and process their feelings and emotions.

There are many ways parents can teach their children to express their emotions in a healthy manner[4], including:

  • Help your child identify the name of the feeling they are experiencing.
  • Talk about healthy ways of dealing with emotions, such as talking things out and deep breathing exercises.
  • Be a nurturing connection to your child so that they feel that they can come to their parent when they are experiencing heightened emotions.
  • Resist punishment when they are acting out of emotional turmoil; instead, work to help them talk about their emotions and feelings.
  • Have your child practice talking about their feelings, and praise them when they talk and express themselves.

It is not easy for parent or child to go through the a divorce situation. Parents should be aware of the emotional turmoil that their child is likely going through, so they can encourage them to express it through healthy dialogue and conversations.

The Help Available for Children of Divorce

There are counselors, psychologists, therapists, and play therapists available for help to your family. You can simply google the area where you live and “divorce counseling,” and you should find qualified professionals near you.

Divorce Care 4 Kids[5]is a support group program with curriculum designed to help children ages 5-12 whose parents have gone through divorce. There are groups that facilitate this program all over the world. The programs tend to be low cost or, in some cases, free.

Do your children need DC4K? Here is what they say on their website about their program:

“Your kids probably feel scared, sad, and confused after your divorce. They know you have been hurt deeply. As a result, they may hide their feelings because they are worried about your happiness or because they do not know how to express their feelings appropriately. DC4K helps them process those feelings and gives them tools to communicate better with you.”

Final Thoughts

Many children process through divorce without serious problems. However, we can never be sure which children will have issues in handling a divorce. When parents are able to identify behavioral issues and problems that arise during or following a divorce, they can help their child get the help that they need.

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Behavioral issues tend to be an indication that the child is not properly processing their emotions. Hope is found in providing the help that your child needs. Being their support system to help them talk about their feelings is helpful, as is seeking professional counseling when behavioral problems arise.

More on the Effects of Divorce on Children

Featured photo credit: Joseph Gonzalez via unsplash.com

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