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During the parents’ divorce, children aged six to eight need to be able to love both parents, without guilt, shame, blame, or being drawn into a loyalty conflict. One parent can cause great harm in letting the child know the foibles of or speaking ill of the other parent rather than allowing the child freedom for contact and emotional attachment to both parents, whether or not the parent believes the other parent deserves to have that contact or emotional attachment.
The child of this age is learning competency and self-concept development is taking place. These children will feel intense grief and sadness at the divorce, crying and mourning when a parent leaves, even if they did not have a close, loving, positive relationship with the leaving parent. Reunification of the parents is a dream and goal and the children may become parental care takers, too helpful, or too good.
The children need to be shielded from conflict and information regarding the divorce so they may grow and develop. Possible problems include telling each parent what he or she may want to hear rather than the truth or reality. The children may become preoccupied, inattentive, or act out in school, and may profess ailments or dislike of school to avoid school because of feelings of incompetence and inadequacy in the family’s problems. The school should be made aware of the divorce.
Parenting plans should consider that young school-age children are in a period of transition and self-discovery, learning to choose friends and becoming independent by attending school. School can be used for smooth transitions between homes, and periods of time in each home where the child is separated from the other parent can begin to extend to up to four to five days depending on the maturity and needs of the child and the child’s success with such separation, but with both parents involved with school and related requirements.
Caretaking arrangements should be consistent, stable, and predictable for the younger school-age child.
Where there is high conflict or impairments, use of a therapist mediator will be of greater assistance.