Understanding The Effects Of Divorce On Children
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.
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 experiencing a 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.
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 divorce from carrying into adulthood.
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, 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.”
"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's possible to overcome the negative effects it may have on your children. 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.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the impact of divorce on a child?
Divorce can impact children differently depending on a variety of factors. The circumstances surrounding the divorce, the amount of support available, and the type of environment created by the divorce can all affect how a child handles their parent’s separation. Children may experience emotions in a heightened state, trouble in school, and feel like their world is being completely torn apart. They might also feel abandoned by one or both parents. However, with the proper support, respect for one’s ex-spouse, and time, children from divorced parents can lead happy and fulfilling childhoods and lives.
How badly does divorce hurt the child?
Divorce may affect each child differently. When young children experience their parent's divorce, they may begin to feel guilty about it, believing the divorce was because of them. These negative thinking patterns can damage their self-esteem and create abandonment issues. Divorce may make children vulnerable to emotional or mental health issues. When parents decide to divorce, it can be important for them to invest in their child's emotional needs and to help them cope with the adjustment.
At what age does divorce impact a child?
Divorce can impact a child regardless of their age. However, younger children from divorced families may be particularly vulnerable. Children who are older or in their teens might be more in tune with the impending situation and may be more aware of the tension that exists within the household. They may have already developed coping mechanisms to help them adjust to the new family dynamic. The negative effects of divorce on children can be managed with the right tools. Family or individual therapy can be an effective tool and source of support for families who have experienced a divorce. Sessions with a licensed professional may help children understand and cope with their parent's divorce.
What are the five stages of a divorce?
When a divorce occurs, a marriage is lost; therefore, the stages of a divorce may feel much like the grieving process. These stages can include:
- Denial - This stage often occurs before the actual divorce has been decided. One or both partners may be in denial because there are issues within their relationship that they may not be able to reconcile.
- Anger - When a partner feels rejected, unheard, hurt, or failed in their marriage, they may experience intense anger. Remember that anger is a normal emotion, but there are ways to cope with these intense feelings that may be healthier than others.
- Bargaining - This stage of divorce may be internal or external. A partner may bargain internally, feeling guilty as they could have done things differently to fix the marriage. When the bargaining is external, a partner may ask the other for another chance and promise to change.
- Depression - After the first three stages, a partner may realize that their divorce is over, and they may feel incredibly sad and lose interest in the world around them. This may be one of the most difficult stages of divorce. If you're experiencing symptoms of depression during a divorce, it may be helpful to seek support from a professional to help you find healthy ways to cope.
- Acceptance - During the acceptance stage of divorce, a partner may feel more uplifting emotions and may even feel excited for the new chapter of their life. They have come to terms with the divorce and understand why it may have been the right choice.
Children experiencing a parental divorce may go through a similar grieving process and may need support to heal.
How does divorce affect a child's mental health?
When a child’s parents divorce, they may face challenges getting used to the transition or the new family dynamic. They may feel confused and experience difficulties with accepting their parents' decision to divorce. It can be especially challenging for children if a breach of trust is involved in the situation or if their parents have turned against each other.
Divorce can sometimes cause immense tension within a household, affecting a child's mental health and well-being. However, every child manages divorce differently. Some of the negative effects may include poor performance in school, a loss of interest in activities, difficulties adapting to change, anger or irritability, and feelings of guilt, among other concerns.
What are the effects of divorce on parents?
Divorce can be a difficult process, especially for the parents involved. It may be difficult for some parents to divide custody and spend less time with their children. Parents may find it challenging to manage the new family dynamic, or they may harbor resentment toward their ex-spouse, creating issues within the family. The divorce may cause one or both parents to develop emotional distress or mental health concerns, making it more challenging to keep it together in front of the children and carry out parental responsibilities.
What year of marriage is most common for divorce?
Studies show that most marriages end within years 1-2 and 5-8. Many relationships that make it past this point have developed healthy communication skills to establish a strong long-term connection and know how to work through problems that come their way. If you're beginning to feel like your relationship is facing difficulties, it may be helpful to seek the help of a relationship therapist for support.
Who gets the house in a divorce with children?
Who gets the house in a divorce can depend, regardless of whether children are involved or not. Often, this is decided by the two individuals divorcing. Some people decide to sell the property and divide the sale money evenly; others may opt to leave the house independently and allow the spouse to keep it. Throughout the divorce process, both spouses are entitled to remain in the household, and it depends on each couple's situation on who is entitled to property that is jointly owned.
Parents who can settle the distribution of their assets through mediation and outside of a courtroom will often find that the process is less jarring for the entire family. One of the most effective ways to avoid a long, troublesome process is to do your best to make arrangements together. This may still require some professional help, but it can be done respectfully. Don't hesitate to look into therapy before, during, and after a divorce. Healing from big changes such as this one is something that can be done. It sometimes just takes a little guidance.
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