Understanding The Effects Of Divorce On Children

Updated April 30, 2024by Regain Editorial Team

Going through a divorce can take a toll on a family, especially when there are children involved. As parents learn how to adjust to life without their spouse, they must also find ways to support their kids through a tough transition. A child whose parents split up may be affected in several different ways, and these impacts can vary depending on the child’s age, the circumstances surrounding the divorce, and how much support they have through the process. The effects on a child's behavior may be unpredictable and the negative effects of divorce on children can extend well beyond the initial emotional reactions of sadness, anger, and resentment. If you're going through a divorce, it can be important to understand how divorce may affect your children and learn ways to effectively support them.

Wondering how to tell your child about your divorce?

How divorce affects children

Divorce can impact each child in a different way. While some kids may accept the separation with empathy and understanding, others might be too young to grasp what’s going on and experience negative consequences as a result. These negative effects can create problems in a child’s educational journey, relationships, and mental health. If these problems are left unaddressed, they can persist into adulthood and continue to affect the individual in a multitude of areas.

Common issues experienced by children who have gone through a parental divorce could include

Poor academic performance

Children in school, no matter their age, may see a decline in their academic performance. Their grades may slip, and they might refrain from participating in recreational or after-school sports or activities because they are distracted by their life at home. This could cause them to miss out on social interaction and formative friendships since they may not be as involved with their peers as they could be if they were not going through so much. 

Difficulties adapting to change

Children of divorce may find it difficult to adapt to the transition. During a divorce, a child may have to learn how to adapt to a new family unit, a new living situation, different schools, and new friends, among other things. This can be incredibly overwhelming for a child, and they may be resistant to these changes.

Loss of interest

Research shows that divorce may impact children socially. Kids may have more difficulty relating to other children whose parents aren't divorced, and they may feel like no one understands what they are going through. This can leave them feeling isolated and could cause them to further withdraw from their friends and family members. They may no longer desire to hang out with their friends, opting to be alone in the house instead. In some cases, this could signal a more serious issue, like depression. 

Emotional issues

When a child’s parents divorce, they may experience a wide range of intense emotions during the grieving process. Feelings of anger, confusion, guilt, sadness, or anxiety may cause a child to feel overwhelmed and potentially unsure of how to manage their feelings. It can be important for children to have someone they trust to talk about what they are feeling and learn healthy ways to process and cope with these emotions. When children aren’t able to express how they feel, it could delay their healing process and create lasting impacts into adulthood. 

Ilona Titova/EyeEm

How to make the transition easier

Children may face many difficulties when their parents get a divorce. However, there are steps parents can take to help their children cope with the transition.

These could include the following

Don't keep secrets

It can be important to avoid keeping secrets from your children. Rather than waiting until the last minute to tell them about the divorce, bring the subject up well ahead of time. This can give them time to adjust to the transition slowly which may help ease any negative effects of the separation.

Don't overshare

While it can be crucial not to keep secrets from your children, there is a balance you can strive to maintain. Take care not to tell them too much about the divorce or give them unnecessary information. It could be harmful if you give them information that portrays one parent in a negative light.

Tell them it's not their fault

Children often feel guilty and may believe the divorce is their fault. Ensure your children the divorce is not because of them or anything they did. 

Admit it's difficult

Divorce is often a difficult transition, and there’s no shame in admitting this. Encourage your children to feel their emotions fully and express themselves as they need to. Ensure them that what they’re feeling is normal and valid and that it’s okay if they’re sad, angry, or anything else. 

Tell your children you love them

Let your children know that both you and your partner love them and will always be there to support them regardless of what happens to the family dynamic.

Talk to them

Your children are likely experiencing many different emotions and may have difficulty coping with them. It can be vital to be a source of support to your child and a safe place they can go to for help.

Get help

If your child or children are having a challenging time accepting or coping with the divorce, it may be beneficial to seek support from a licensed professional. A child therapist can work with your child to get them to open up about their feelings and process them in a healthy, productive way. Therapy can be a powerful tool for preventing problems associated with the effects of divorce on children from carrying into adulthood. 

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Wondering how to tell your child about your divorce?

Online counseling with Regain

If you're experiencing a divorce, you may encounter a wide range of emotions throughout the process. It may be difficult to adapt to the new family dynamic, and your children may need support as they get used to the changes. While you may feel alone without the support of your spouse during this time, it can be important to remember that support and help are available any time you need it. A licensed therapist can help ease the effects of divorce on mental health, not only for you but for your entire family. Regain is an online counseling platform that can connect you with a licensed family therapist right from your home. They may be able to provide you with the tools you need to make the whole process as comforting as possible for you and your children. While this time in your life may be busy as you take on extra responsibilities by yourself, online counseling can allow you and your children to still get the support you need. 

The effectiveness of online counseling 

Research has shown how divorce can have a variety of harmful emotional and psychological effects. Online counseling often seeks to negate these consequences, and one study showed that it did just that. In a one-year study of an online intervention for recent divorcees, researchers found that the program significantly reduced anxious, depressive, and somatization symptoms and that the magnitude of these effects was large in effect size. In a one-year follow-up, symptom levels of all 3 outcomes were found to be close to the population norms for participants in the intervention group but still elevated for those in the control group. These findings suggest that “online intervention platforms may be effective in reducing adverse mental health related effects of divorce and thereby offer long-term human and public health benefits.”

Counselor reviews

"Dr. Anstadt is amazing. I appreciate him always reaching out to make sure things are going smoothly in between our sessions. He follows up and genuinely cares about my situation. I would recommend Dr. Anstadt to anyone who is seeking insight on parenting and new relationships after divorce. Thank you for everything!"

"Lisheyna is an amazing person with really beautiful insights. I struggled with my separation, and she helped me regain new insights, which helped me become friends with my ex-wife again and understand her perspective. I am grateful to Lisheyna for her support and would highly recommend her to anyone seeking any personal or relationship counseling."


Going through a divorce may be difficult for the entire family. However, it may be possible to overcome the negative effects of divorce on children and adults. If you're experiencing a divorce, it may be beneficial to seek support from a professional, such as a therapist. They can provide you with tools and coping mechanisms to help you and your children get through any challenges you may be facing. Working with a Regain therapist, you can grow mentally healthier and stronger, which may improve your family dynamic and make the transition of divorce easier to cope with for you and your children.

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