It’s true that the connections children make in their early years matter most in their development. They learn from their parents how to handle stress and react to stimuli. They are taught the very basics of survival as infants and as they grow into toddlers.
If you and your spouse are divorcing when your child in an infant, you may not be sure how to minimize the impact on your child. The reality is that your child may sense that something is changing, but they will be too small to talk about it. Infants, in particular, require around-the-clock care, so any changes in routine may have an impact.
Children as young as 3 months old recognize parents’ emotions
Children learn about emotions very early on, as soon as three months. That’s why it’s so important to address how you’re going to divorce in a positive, calm manner that is less likely to have a negative effect on your young child.
A child that young can’t understand what’s happening, and they aren’t likely to be able to express themselves other than by crying or being fussy. It’s not even until 18 months that parents can begin to use simple language to explain what’s happening.
So, for an infant, what can you do?
The most important thing to do for an infant is to work on minimizing changes. If there is a routine that mom and dad have that can be maintained despite the divorce, try to keep it up. Don’t plan overnight visits when the child is too young to be away from their mother, and be aware of changes in behavior.
Both mom and dad should be on the same page with the baby’s routine. If one parent or the other now lives outside of the home, make sure that regular visits occur and that there is a normalized “goodbye” or “goodnight” routine in place. Try to keep the same toys, food, bottles and other accessories in each home.
As your child grows, they’ll get used to this change and be more comfortable in the routine. Until then, it’s both parents’ responsibility to maintain the status quo as much as possible and to refrain from placing the baby into situations where they observe conflict.