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Fear of Divorce

Elementary School Expert Advice from Barbara Potts

Q: My six-year-old daughter is terrified that my husband and I might get divorced. I don't think this is at all likely. We did have a noisy fight a few weeks ago -- we both apologized to each other and to her, but she's still frightened. I think this, as well as the terrorist attacks, has led to behavioral problems at school and at home and a brief regression of bedwetting. How do I help her cope?

A: Keep reassuring your daughter both with your words and your actions that your family is happy and will stay together. Remind her that sometimes she sees her friends have disagreements but they remain friends, just as you and your husband have fusses but still love each other.

The events of the last two months are overwhelming to adults; just think what they must be like to a six-year-old. Monitor your daughter's TV viewing and remember that there is nothing wrong with turning off the news when she is watching. Children are not able to put events into perspective like adults are, and video clips of war or of buildings collapsing may seem to be just down the street instead of hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Be patient with your daughter and continue to tell and show her that she is loved. Reassure her that your family is safe and that you will always love her and each other. Work out a plan with your daughter's teacher to address her behavior problems at school with firmness and consistency; she still needs to know that the rules you've had in place are still the rules she must follow.

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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

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