Going through a divorce is bound to be a very stressful time in your life, especially if you have a young baby. In a paper for the Encyclopaedia on Early Childhood Development, Jennifer E. McIntosh, Ph.D., of La Trobe University, Australia, states that much of the development of the human brain in the first three years of life is experience-dependent – the complexity and quality of the brain’s development will depend on the care that the child receives. It is vital, therefore, that as well as taking care of yourself during a divorce, you also care for your baby’s needs.
Look After Your Baby
Form a bond of trust with your baby. Remember that your baby depends on you for everything. Respond appropriately to her needs, picking her up when she is crying, feeding and changing her when she needs it. However difficult the time may be, make sure you continue to spend time with your baby, building trust and that so important emotional bond. Even though your baby does not understand what divorce is, and will not realize what is going on, she will still pick up on any stress or tension in the home. Your baby’s feeling are influenced by your feelings, so if you are feeling upset or angry, worried or sad, then your baby is likely to, as well. Try to be calm and gentle around your baby to help her feel calm, relaxed and secure.
Look After Yourself
Your baby needs you healthy so that you can take care of him, so look after yourself, as well. Try to eat well, and get some exercise if you can. Sleep when your baby sleeps so that you are refreshed and able to attend to him when he is awake. Accept help from friends and family. You need support at this difficult time in your life. Having a young baby is tiring, and trying to keep going for his sake can be exhausting. Ask friends to watch your baby while you take a nap, go for a walk or simply go out for a coffee, for example. Don’t be proud or put on a brave face. If help is offered in whatever shape or form – take it.
Reassurance and Routine
It is important that you try your best to keep to a routine. This will provide your baby with reassurance. Depending on the age of your baby, stick to feeding times, nap times, bath times and bed times as much as possible. Try to fit in a walk in the fresh air every day, as well – this will be beneficial to both you and your baby. If your baby is going to stay with your ex-partner or with a relative, ask him to maintain the routine. Make sure your baby, however young, has familiar objects around her if she is away from you – a usual blanket or teddy bear, for example.
Communication with Your Ex
Do your best to facilitate the relationship between your ex-partner and your baby. Allow your baby to have as much time with his other parent as possible – he needs to develop an attachment to both parents if he can, and he needs to feel secure with both of you. Cooperate with your ex-partner, ensuring that your baby’s needs come first.
- Encyclopaedia on Early Childhood Development: Special Considerations for Infants and Toddlers in Separation/Divorce: Developmental Issues in the Family Law Context
- Greater San Marcos Youth Council, Inc.: Children and Divorce: Age Stages
- National Network for Child Care: Divorce Matters: A Child’s View
- University of Missouri Extension: Helping Infants and Toddlers Adjust to Divorce
- Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images