How Failed Marriages Cast Shadow on Childhood in Kashmir

By Wasim Kakroo

In February last year, Kashmir’s Grand Mufti Nasir-ul-Islam set the alarm bells ringing when he said that divorces, marital feuds and domestic violence related cases are all time high in Kashmir and the situation going from bad to worse with a series of reasons responsible for the “growing menace.”

It was in 2016, he said, when his office received record complaints. “Then numbers continued to increase and today, situation is grim, infact situation is going from bad to worse,” he said. “Wrong use of internet including social media, ill-treatment to new brides by their inlaws, and husbands, and also the drug abuse is also a major reason.”

Seven years ago, the Grand Mufti said, he used to resolve or issue divorce decrees to at least two or three cases a month. “Today, at least 100 divorces take place in my court on regular bases within one to two months,” Mufti Nasir said. He said that youth are hooked to drug abuse and that also becomes the reason for marital feud which ultimately leads to divorce between the couples. “Love affairs or flirting by both women and men on social media and internet is also leading to the growing rates of divorces and marital feuds,” he said, “first women talk to strangers, then chat regularly, then meet and then enter into an extra-marital affairs, which leads to big feuds and then to divorces.”

While it’s known that a significant proportion of all marriages end in divorce, but the fact that the majority of these divorces have an impact on children under the age of 18 remains an overlooked reality. Many parents are filled with guilt or worry about how their divorce will affect their children’s life.

Because children rely on their parents for security, it’s natural for them to be alarmed or perplexed when they witness their mother or father in distress related to divorce. When parents fail to explain the reasons behind the changing emotions and home surroundings, their children frequently misinterpret what’s going on. They may start to believe that they are to blame for the divorce, or they may accept responsibility for attempting to reunite their parents.

How do children take their parents’ divorce?

Divorce has a wide range of emotional effects on children, depending on their age. Adults, on one hand, are usually more prepared for what’s to come, while as children may have never experienced anything like it before. It can be perplexing and frightening for children in many cases.

• Kids are the ones that suffer the most as a result of their parents’ divorce. For this age group, new living circumstances usually bring a lot of stress and confusion. They don’t understand why their family is being split up and why their parents’ love for each other has abruptly ceased.

• Middle school aged children frequently assume that they are to blame for their parents’ divorce. Such children frequently sense severe guilt if they are not given a fair explanation of the event.

• Teenagers are usually aware of what is going on, and they commonly react with anger. Since the divorce interferes with their daily lives, it hence causes them to grow enraged. Teenagers are prone to pointing fingers and blaming one of the parents for the divorce and it may lead to long term or life-long resentments in the mind of a teenager against a particular parent or both of the parents.

What are the various consequences for children whose parents got divorced?

Different consequences may apply depending on the child’s age and the circumstances of their parents’ divorce. The following are a few of the more prevalent ones:

• Such children have an increased likelihood of developing mental illnesses. Children with divorced parents are more prone to suffer anxiety, sadness, and other mental illnesses. Children encounter many problems as they grow up, and in most cases, their parents’ divorce simply adds to the stress.

• Such children have an increased likelihood of experiencing behavioral issues. Children with divorced parents, may have more difficulty communicating effectively and in an assertive way with their peers. Such children may develop a lot of mood swings, which can lead to them taking out their anger on others, making it difficult for them to make friends and socialize.

• The psychological consequences of divorce on children can easily lead to future trust issues. When a child sees their parents’ marriage fall apart, they begin to assume that this is how relationship function. They have a hard time trusting new people in their lives, especially when it comes to relationships, and trusting them is a whole new level of difficulty.

• The psychological consequences of divorce on children can easily lead to future trust issues. When a youngster sees their parents’ marriage fall apart, they begin to assume that this is how marriages function. They have a hard time trusting new people in their lives, especially when it comes to relationships, and trusting them is a whole new level of difficulty.

• It’s understandable that a child going through all of this would be too sensitive. This is one of the psychological effects of divorce on children. Mention of family, divorce, or parents will easily harm or disturb them. It will be the parent’s responsibility to make the children feel at ease when dealing with emotional concerns.

• Separation anxiety in younger children might manifest itself in the form of increased crying or clinginess. This is, of course, a developmental milestone that usually occurs between the ages of 6 and 9 months and lasts until 18 months. Still, older toddlers and children may exhibit separation anxiety or ask for the other parent when they aren’t around.

• Clinginess, bedwetting, thumb sucking, and temper tantrums are common in toddlers and preschoolers between the ages of 18 months and 6 years old. If you find your child of age older than 6 years regressing, it could be a symptom of increased stress or trouble transitioning post divorce.

• Academic drop-ins are a possibility. A strong academic achievement necessitates a lot of focus and concentration. It’s difficult to keep focused while your parents are divorcing. Such children frequently suffer in school.

• In a 2019 study, researchers looked into whether or not children bear the brunt of their parents’ divorce. While children’s body mass index (BMI) does not indicate an immediate influence, it may be “substantially” greater over time than children who have not experienced divorce. These consequences are more noticeable in children who have experienced separation before the age of 6.

• Children experience both cognitive dissonance and allegiance conflict when their parents fight. They’re uncomfortable being caught in the middle, unsure whether to support one parent or the other. This can manifest as a strong desire for “fairness,” even if it is detrimental to their own development. Increased stomachaches or headaches may also indicate discomfort in children. As children grow older, the loyalty dilemma may become much more obvious, leading to a complete split from one parent.

• Such children have a higher likelihood of developing addiction. They are more likely to start abusing substances at a young age. It frequently leads to a severe addiction. These children are also more likely than their peers to begin having sexual experiences at a younger age.

How can we help such children in coping with the effects of divorce?

Even the most cooperative of split-ups can become tense and contentious. Divorce is a difficult subject to approach but your children will appreciate your openness and recognition of their role in the problem.

Some other tips to help them cope include:

• Encourage your child to engage in conversation with you. Explain that you’re a secure place for them to express any emotions they’re experiencing. Then, most essential, listen to all they have to say with open ears.

• Recognize that every child processes change in their own unique way. What works for one of your children might not work for the other. Pay attention to any acting out or other indications you notice and adjust your strategy as needed.

• If at all possible, try to avoid causing problems with your ex (and it may not always be possible). When parents quarrel in front of their children, it might lead to “taking sides” or favouring one parent over the other.

• Allow your child to communicate with the other parent anytime he or she needs to. Make an effort to convey that you care about the time they spend with the other parent. If your child enjoys their time away from you, don’t imply that they are disloyal.

• Be consistent in disciplining the child. When it comes to their child’s discipline, both parents should be on the same page. Many parents compensate for the absence of the other parent by allowing their children to act as they choose. Discipline consistency may lessen the likelihood of the child subsequently participating in delinquent behaviour.

• If you need assistance, ask for it. This could be in the form of your own personal support network of family and friends. Call your paediatrician or a mental health expert if your child begins to exhibit certain warning signs. You don’t have to go through this alone.

• Be kind to yourself. Yes, your child relies on you to remain calm and composed. You are, after all, only human. Showing emotions in front of your children is entirely acceptable and even encouraged. Explicitly expressing your own emotions will likely encourage your children to be open about their own emotions.

It’s important to understand that a parent’s divorce can be a traumatic event for their children. However, this does not guarantee that it will occur. If the family dynamic has been toxic from the start, a divorce may be beneficial. During the divorce, it is critical to provide children your undivided attention and provide all required explanations. Your child, more than anything else, deserves to know that you love and support them unconditionally, regardless of your relationship status.

  • The author is a licensed clinical psychologist (alumni of Govt. Medical College Srinagar). He can be reached at 8825067196

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