Impact of divorce on the oldest child

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Impact of divorce on the oldest child

The oldest sibling in a divorce family, for better or worse, is likely to become a stand in caregiver. Now, depending on the age gap between the older sibling and the younger siblings that can be just an occasional, very casual bit of authority or it can be real hands-on babysitting and caretaking. All of that is not a bad thing necessarily – it helps bring the kids themselves closer together; it alleviates the considerable pressure on the custodial parent, because that person knows that mom or dad has a live in caregiver to help out – so all of this is good. But it’s very important though, that the oldest child not feel like he or she is getting special burdens and special punishment. The divorce is hard enough. To be told, “Oh, by the way, now you have a part time job caring for your other siblings, driving them to and from soccer practice, doing all the work that your absent parent used to do,” the child is going to feel doubly punished – in some ways doubly penalized by what has just happened. So it’s very important to strike a balance. Enlist that child, use that resource, keep an eye on how well the kids are all adjusting to that new authority the other child has. But also remember the other child is still just a child and deserves a childhood that’s as normal and burden free as possible.

Watch Jeffrey Kluger's video on Impact of divorce on the oldest child...


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Jeffrey Kluger

Science Journalist & Author

Jeffrey Kluger is a senior editor and writer at Time magazine, covering science, health and other fields. He is the coauthor, along with astronaut Jim Lovell, of Apollo 13, the book that served as the basis of the 1995 movie. His more-recent release, Splendid Solution, told the story of Jonas Salk and the Polio Vaccine.  His novel, Nacky Patcher and the Curse of the Dry-Land Boats, was published in June 2007, and his newest nonfiction book, Simplexity: Why Simple Things Become Complex, was published in June 2008.

Before coming to Time, Kluger worked for Discover magazine, where he was a senior editor and humor columnist. Prior to that, he was health editor at Family Circle magazine, story editor at The New York Times Business World Magazine, and Associate Editor at Science Digest magazine. His features and columns have appeared in dozens of publications, including The New York Times Magazine, Gentlemen's Quarterly, The Wall Street Journal, Cosmopolitan, Omni, McCall's, New York Magazine, The New York Post, Newsday, and, of course, Time. He has worked as an adjunct instructor in the graduate journalism program at New York University; is a licensed—though non-practicing—attorney; and is a graduate of the University of Maryland and the University of Baltimore School of Law. He lives in New York City with his wife Alejandra and their daughters, Elisa and Paloma.

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