How Divorce Affects Infants and Toddlers


Toddler Bed

Infants and toddlers are affected by the divorce in several ways. They don’t know what is going on but they do sense something is wrong. They pick up on the emotions of the adults around them. It will be hard for the parents to remain calm during the divorce process.

Signs of distress in the child

  • Infants and toddlers are likely to be fussy and demanding.
  • They want to be held and comforted.
  • There may be changes in not only their disposition but in eating, toileting and sleeping habits such as
  • Become picky eaters
  • Have more soiled diapers
  • Sleep sporadically
  • Some will regress in some of the skills they had previously learned. 

Tips for parents

  • Maintain schedules as much as possible
  • When child goes to visit the other parent, be encouraging and upbeat. Send something of yours that has your scent on it such as a T-shirt. Spray the cologne or aftershave you wear on the article. Send favorite blanket or toy.
  • Be prepared to meet every need. This may seem overwhelming at first but by giving your child the attention now he or she will make it easier in the long run.
  • Smile and keep a pleasant expression on your face.
  • Try to stay as calm and reassuring as possible and be reassuring with a soft voice.
  • Smile and cuddle with your baby.
  • Do not hover over your baby and cling desperately to him or her.
  • Take care of yourself. You child needs a healthy you.

Tips for church workers caring for infants and toddlers

  • Be prepared to have extra hands available to hold and nurture infants.
  • Stay as calm as possible with a fussy child. It may take the child several minutes for the child to calm down after leaving the arms of the emotionally stressed parent.
  • Use low and soft voices when calming the child.
  • Speak slowly and distinctly when settling the child.
  • Hum, sing or play praise music.
  • Smile as you cuddle and play with the child.
  • Feeling sorry for or having pity on the child will affect the child’s disposition, as they will sense you feel different toward them. Instead try to understand what the child is feeling and meet the need at the moment.
  • Try to maintain the child’s feeding and napping schedule as closely as possible.
  • Realize that some toddlers will regress in various areas. Allow them to hold onto a blanket or toy brought from home. Allow bottles or pacifiers when needed, even if this means placing a child in an area away from other children.
  • Be reassuring and encouraging to the single parent and give them hope for the future.
  • Pray for the single parent often and pray with them when possible.
  • Have prepared scripture verses available and hand one to the parent when the Holy Spirit prompts you.
  • Realize many single parents will be running late. Be forgiving and accept the child who hasn’t had their breakfast or bottle graciously.

Being grateful and thankful the single parent is making an attempt to attend church changes the chemical make up in your brain. These attitudes will allow you to come across as caring and empathetic rather harsh and judgmental. Offer hugs when appropriate. Understand that some parents in the process of divorce may break down in tears or express great anger. At these times try to gently remove the adult from the view of the children, another reason extra workers are needed.

He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water. Isaiah 49:10b (RSV)

If your church has DivorceCare  provide information on meeting times and have a brochure available to hand out when appropriate.


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6 thoughts on “How Divorce Affects Infants and Toddlers

  1. Pingback: How Divorce Affects Children of All Ages | Divorce Ministry 4 Kids

  2. Pingback: DC4K » Question of the week: How do I help a single parent with a young child who screams when being left on Sunday mornings?

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