DIVORCE AND YOUR CHILD’S TEMPERAMENT
Each child reacts to their parents’ separation in their own way because they have unique temperaments which are part of their biological make-up. Even siblings in the same family can have very different reactions to their parents’ separation because of these temperament differences.
Of the nine generally recognized temperament traits, the ones that will have the strongest contribution to how your child reacts to your separation are adaptability, intensity and sensitivity.
Adaptability describes how much your child needs routine and structure and how well she does with transitions.
Intensity describes how expressive your child is to either positive or negative situations. High intensity children show you exactly how they are feeling while low intensity children will be less expressive outwardly but may have stomach or head aches.
Sensitivity describes how your child reacts to his environment. High sensitive kids notice and are impacted by their physical and emotional environment.
Knowing your child’s temperament can help you plan for how to best help them manage the changes of a separation.
Children who are less adaptable will benefit more than other children from having very predictable custody schedule and even the same routine at each parents’ home. Young children can benefit from a picture calendar showing when to expect a transition from one home to another.
While high intensity children will definitely let you know how they are feeling, children with low intensity may need help expressing how they are feeling about all the changes in their lives.
Children with high sensitivity will be more impacted by your emotional upset then children with lower sensitivity. Practicing mindfulness meditation techniques can help you feel calmer as you negotiate this transitional time and protect your children from your upset feelings.
You can find out your child’s temperament at www.preventiveoz.org. (The preschool questionnaire and assessment is valid to age 8).