This is the fourth in a series of articles on Parenting Considerations during Divorce and Dissolution cases. Today we will focus on The Older Elementary School-Aged Child (8 to 10 Years).
Parenting this age group often means being both a taxi driver and a cheerleader. The parent may feel somewhat sidelined by the child’s increasing need to be with certain friends. At the same time, the child desperately needs the support of parents to feel productive, not only by providing transportation, but to be there to watch a game or to share in a school achievement. The parent also plays a critical role in helping the child overcome a sense of failure.
Parents of this age group need to work hard to prevent their child from becoming so overly involved and worried about the family situation that they are unable to remain productive in school and other peer activities. Parents also must maintain and nurture important peer relationships if at all possible.
The following needs to be considered in divorce and dissolution cases involving early elementary school-aged children:
• How does the parent encourage the child’s need for productivity and self-reliance by supporting and facilitating involvement in activities?
• Does the parent seem to recognize the importance of peer friendships and foster these relationships?
• Is the parent aware of the child’s academic progress, mastery of material, completion of homework, and any behavioral difficulties in school?
• How does the parent keep the child organized during the shift between homes and to school?
• Does the parent reserve time alone with the child and share the child’s meaningful activities and interests?
• Does the child have sufficient “downtime” to relax and recharge or is the child over scheduled with activities?
• Does the parent acknowledge difficulties yet emphasize that the child need not feel responsible for the parent’s well-being?
• How does the parent minimize loyalty conflicts or prevent the child from feeling compelled to take sides?
• Does the parent avoid dwelling on financial or legal concerns with the child or within the child’s earshot?
• Does the parent adhere to a parenting schedule as discussed with the child and does the parent arrive promptly?
• How does each parent support the child’s relationship with the other parent?
• Does the parent discuss the child’s concerns about death or injury to a parent and options for care of the child?
• Has the parent attended a research-based, parenting skills training program?
• If a parent is diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder or psychiatric disorder, has he or she sought treatment?
• If so, what has been the outcome of the treatment?
Parenting an older elementary school-aged child through a separation and divorce poses specific challenges. Their increasing ability to empathize makes them at special risk for experiencing loyalty conflicts, putting themselves in the middle of parental conflict, or siding with one parent over the other.