11 answers

How Do I Deal with My Child Acting Out After a Divorce?

My son is three years old, and his father and I recently divorced. My son is now acting out, and throwing tantrums for the other parent whenever he is with me or his father. He doesn't know why we don't live together. I don't know what to do or say that can make him understand that mommy and daddy will never be 'together' again, and we have to live apart. What do I do about the tantrums? I can't discipline him because he is just expressing his confusion, and the fact that he isn't getting what he wants. I can't just let him keep getting angry either....how do I approach this?

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Hi! I have to deal with a similar situation with my own 3 yr old son when he comes back from his dad's house. It is very hard but here are some things that have worked. First be strong and be consistant with limit setting. You can validate his feelings of sadness, anger whatever he is feeling but let him know that his behavior is unacceptable. Otherwise you give the message that because his life is difficult he can act any way he wants.....and we don't need more adults like that in this world. Also, there is a great book at the Bangor Library called Two Homes. It is simple and about a boy named Alex who has two places to live. My son really seemed to identify with it. It is still a struggle when he comes home from a weekend at his dad's but it gets better every time. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

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Hi. As a child of divorce and having put my older kids through a divorce maybe this will help. First, let him talk about how he feels. Even if he can't fully express himself you should get the gist of it. Then talk with him, on a level he will understand, and let him know that just because you and him live in one house and Daddy lives in another doesn't mean that both you and his Daddy don't love him. Reaffirm how much you BOTH love him and want the best for him but sometimes grown ups can't always get along or work out their differences. Try to explain that it is okay for him to be mad, hurt or confused but that expressing himself in such a manner (tantrums) is not appropiate and you and he (and him and Daddy) should be able to freely talk about everything. Even at 3 yrs. old he has an opinion and should be allowed to express it in an open and acceptable manner. I hope this helps. Good Luck.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi! I have to deal with a similar situation with my own 3 yr old son when he comes back from his dad's house. It is very hard but here are some things that have worked. First be strong and be consistant with limit setting. You can validate his feelings of sadness, anger whatever he is feeling but let him know that his behavior is unacceptable. Otherwise you give the message that because his life is difficult he can act any way he wants.....and we don't need more adults like that in this world. Also, there is a great book at the Bangor Library called Two Homes. It is simple and about a boy named Alex who has two places to live. My son really seemed to identify with it. It is still a struggle when he comes home from a weekend at his dad's but it gets better every time. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi Sheena,
My name is K. and I am a seperated mom of 2 boys, 9 and 2, who is trying to get up enough courage (money) to divorce their father. Let's see, divorce, separation, breakups are TOUGH. They are even tougher on the children. I can say that I've noticed happy children with happy parents. So, I would say the key is to remember you. How often do you smile? When do you look nice? A good parent is a happy parent and boy that is soo hard. I try to take my advice and live one day at a time. I too am looking to speak w/ other divorced/ seperated moms. Hopefully, I can start some sort of support group. Please send me a note when you read this. Let me know if it helps. Take care of yourself!

1 mom found this helpful

I'm in a similar situation. I have a 2 1/2 year old girl and a 4 year old boy. I left their father just before my son turned 3 and for the most part he really calmed down(his father has a bad temper and is an alcoholic). Visitation has been a battle and they see their dad very infrequently and they are old enough to understand only that their dad does some things that are unsafe for them. My son has absolute screaming fits not because he didnt get something but because he feels angry and while i cant punish him for feeling angry i just tell him that the crying is fine the screaming is not. You cant punish the emotions, but you can set limits and provide acceptable outlets for the feelings. I remind him that while its perfectly ok for him to feel angry that the screaming(which is deafening!) is not an ok way to show that. I praise him like crazy when he shows his anger in appropriate ways and he is learning to feel proud of himself for controlling his temper.

1 mom found this helpful

S.,
I went through the same thing 6 years ago, my daughter is now eight, she was 2 and 1/2 when her father left us for his currant wife. The only thing I would really reccommend is that you are patient, and reassuring that it is not his fault, do not discuss your past relationship with his father in front of him even. choose your words carefully, as they can hurt him. You just have to keep letting him know that you love him and that you are not going to leave him but that daddy is not going to live here anymore, unfortunately it does not end, even when he married her, my daughter asked how come we all could not live together, they do not understand that she took my place in his life and it will take some time for understanding to sink in, she is just starting to get it at 8 years old now that we have finally gotten married also. reiterate that you love him constantly, hugs, stories, the library has some great stories about divorce, and if need be even at 3 counseling can help. If you validate his feeling and set limits you should get through it and it does get easier but it takes a lot of time and energy and sometimes you will just want to sit down and cry from exhaustion and stress but you will do it with time and commitment, good luck, Judy

1 mom found this helpful

Yes you can discipline him. I know he is just expressing himself but you need to stop that behavior before it gets out of control. There are other ways to express himself that he can be taught. Tantrums are typical for this age. He'd have them regardless of the situation he's in. You feel guilty for what he's going through and you don't want to punish him for this...I don't blame you. However, what is your other option...let him get his way and get what he wants. What does that teach him? Nothing good. And then when does it become o.k. to stop this...when he's 5, 8, 10. By then it's too late. Yes you feel guilty about his situation, but that doesn't mean you can give in. You still have to teach him right and wrong and if that means punishing him then so be it. There are support groups out there for kids of divorce. Try to find things like this in your area.

Just show him as much love as you can, and make sure dad does the same, if possible. I would suggest taking your son to a child psychiatrist or child psychologist as well. I had issues with my 3 yr old after we moved and had her younger sister, and taking her to "play therapy" has worked wonders. A therapist can help you and your ex learn how to reassure your son and make sure he feels secure and safe, as well as teach the child how to express himself better.

Sorry I don't have any specific advice, but I understand your sympathy for his confusion. I think its important to make sure you teach him appropriate ways to express it, though. No matter what the reason behind a tantrum, it is never appropriate behavior. It is important not to coddle you son because you feel guilty about the divorce. He will be a much more well adjusted person in the long run! He might not understand the divorce for a long time, because of his age. But a part of this age is teaching appropriate ways to express emotion. Good luck!

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