How Does Divorce Affect Children?
There have been several studies done on the effects that divorce has on kids.
Most of the findings present different perspectives and there is no clear consensus about its impact. It’s a concern because of the effects it has on the individual and how they will interact as adults when they’re engaged in society.
Children as individuals
We process thoughts and emotions in accordance with our perspective and children are no different. They don’t have the life experience that adults do, but some of them have already endured tumultuous times in their lives.
Some generalizations can be made about the effects of divorce on kids and in most cases, they will be correct. For example, children may feel abandoned by the noncustodial parent. Most are confused and do not understand why one parent is suddenly gone. The family dynamics change and each child copes with their new environment in different ways.
We have some tips on the effects of divorce on kids and how you can help your child to adjust through this stressful period in their lives.
The first year of divorce
This is often the most difficult time for kids. It’s a year of firsts. Birthdays, holidays, family vacations and time spent with parents are all radically different.
They lose the sense of familiarity that was once associated with these events.
Unless both parents work together to celebrate events together as a family there will likely be a division of time. The kids will spend a holiday at the resident parent’s home and the next with the one who moved out.
Parents usually agree to a schedule of visitation through the courts but some agree to be flexible and place the needs of the child first.
In some situations, both parents are present and in others, the kids must travel and this can be disruptive. The stability of their environment is changed and the usual family routines are replaced with new ones, sometimes with each parent as divorce can cause changes in adult behaviors and attitudes.
Helping the kids adjust to the changes
Some kids adjust fairly well to a new environment or routine. Others have difficulty coping. Confusion, frustration and a threat to their safety are common feelings that kids deal with. This can be a scary time as well as an emotionally unsettling period. There is no escaping the fact that this is a traumatic event that can affect kids for a lifetime.
Younger children who do not understand why things have changed or why their parents stopped loving each other often feel insecure. They wonder if their parents will also stop loving them. This undermines their sense of stability. Reassurance from both parents is needed for children.
Kids in grade school may have feelings of guilt over their parent’s divorce. They may feel responsible, especially if parents have argued about parenting in front of them. They may feel as though it was their actions or lack of action that caused their parents to fight and then call it quits. This can result in feelings of low esteem and a lack of confidence.
Anxiety, depression, and anger are common signs. There may be issues at school, failing grades, behavioral incidents or even signs of withdrawal from social involvement.
There is concern that this can lead to a child developing attachment issues in relationships they form as adults. Teens may rebel and act out in anger and frustration because they simply don’t know how to express inner feelings that they don’t fully understand.
They may have trouble concentrating on their schoolwork and earn lower grades in their courses. This happens with some, but not all kids of divorced parents.
Some positive effects on kids
In some situations, divorce can have the opposite effects on kids, and there are some differences between boys and girls. For example, when parents argue and fight, or if one parent is abusive to the other parent or children, the departure of that parent can bring a great sense of relief and lower stress in the home.
When the home environment changes from stressful or unsafe to more stable, the impact of divorce can be less traumatic than the situation prior to the divorce.
The long-term effects of divorce on kids
The breakup of parents can have an impact on many areas of a child’s life. Studies have shown links between divorce and substance abuse, insecurity, attachment issues in relationships and mental health issues in adults from broken homes.
There is also a higher likelihood of divorce, issues with employment and economic hardships when kids of divorced parents reach adulthood. Understanding these potential impacts is important for both parents considering or in the process of divorce.
Having this knowledge can help parents to weigh the pros and cons of divorce and to learn ways of helping their children adjust to the problems caused by divorce, and hopefully lessen the impact substantially.
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