DIVORCE AND CHILDREN

– A Parent’s Guide –

Divorce is a messy process for children.

There are many layers of stress & anxiety when trying to parent your children through your divorce.

CHAPTER 1

Impact of Divorce on Children

The effects of divorce on children are often severe and extensive.

Major changes in a child’s life, such as divorce, remarriage, and blending of families, can pose significant behavioral challenges.

A 2012 Report & Survey Summarized the

Effects of Childrent of Divorce

Dimished Educational Success

1. Lower language stimulation from parents.

2. Less support for good academic habits from parents.

Decrease in Mental Health

1. Less warmth experienced from parents.

2. Increase in physical punishment.

3. Increase in anxiety & depression.

4. Decrease in self-esteem & well being.

Lower Quality of Life

1. Less support from parents.

2. Lower household income.

3. Less toys & games at home.

Decrease In Religious Participation

Sources:

Fagan and Churchill, The Effects of Divorce on Children, 2012.

Størksen, I., Røysamb, E., Moum, T., & Tambs, K. (December 01, 2005). Adolescents with a Childhood Experience of Parental Divorce: A Longitudinal Study of Mental Health and Adjustment. Journal of Adolescence, 28, 6, 725-739.

CHAPTER 2

How Children Typically React to Divorce

Children have a range of emotional responses to their parents divorcing.

They may feel sad, angry, confused, worried, rejected by one parent, or relieved at lowering of intense conflict.

They may go through many of these feelings in stages or all at once.

It is important for each parent to respect their child’s feelings as they experience divorce and learn how to listen and remain connected to their child even when they have these feelings.

During the Divorce…

  • Defiant behavior
  • Large bursts of anger
  • Pleads for peacemaking between parents
  • Behaviors inappropriate for their age: too young or too old.
  • Apathy- they don’t even care about what’s happening.

After the Divorce…

    • A child can feel like they are experiencing a divorce from their parents.

    •  A child can feel like they are put in the middle of the parent’s conflict and have to choose sides.

  • Many children feel as though they must hide their true thoughts and feelings.

Parental Advice

It is important to understand divorce as a process that happens over a long period of time–it is not experienced as one event by a child, but rather, it is an event that will affect them into the future.

It will be important for you to learn how to respond to these changes and remain connected with your child as they react in different ways to divorce.

You may need to learn different methods of connecting with your child that are developmentally appropriate to their age like reading story books and playing or drawing with them.

**Check out our Age Appropriate Guide to Helping Your Child Through Divorce**

Sources:

Fagan and Churchill, The Effects of Divorce on Children, 2012.

Kelly, J. B. (2000). Children’s adjustment in conflicted marriage and divorce: A decade review of research. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 39(8), 963–973.

Lee, C. M., & Hunsley, J. (January 01, 2001). Empirically informed consultation to parents concerning the effects of separation and divorce on their children. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 8, 1, 85-96.

CHAPTER 3

Divorce & Emotional Development of Children

Children of divorce are often involved in conflicts between parents such as being asked to bring messages between each parent or being coerced into taking sides.

In this scenario, children will know their parents as enemies instead of people working together to parent them.

Children of divorce may feel:

A variety of emotions from sadness and anger to relief.

They have to take sides or choose between their parents.

They need to hide their true thoughts and feelings.

They are experiencing a kind of divorce in their relationship with either parent.

More anxiety and depression as they experience turbulence at home.

A lower sense of self-esteem, especially if they hear their parents disparage each other.

Effects of Divorce on Children
(start at Minute 2:54)

When Compared to Teens Who’s Parents Did Not Divorce…

Teen Boys with Divorced Parents…

  • Have excessive problems in school. 
  • Experience more emotional distress specifically as a result of distance from fathers after divorce (this may be due to boys needing a daily male role model in adolescence.)

Teen Girls with Divorce Parents…

      • Have an increase in anxiety, depression, & school problems.
    • Have a decrease in self-esteem & well being.

Parental Advice

“The research literature on children’s adjustment to divorce makes it abundantly clear that exposure to and involvement in parental conflict are very strong risk factors negatively affecting children’s psychological adjustment after divorce.”  (Kelly).

“10 Tips for Divorcing Parents”

Don’t parent alone during a divorce.  We can help. 

Sources:

Kelly, J. B. (2000). Children’s adjustment in conflicted marriage and divorce: A decade review of research. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 39(8), 963–973.

Størksen, I., Røysamb, E., Moum, T., & Tambs, K. (December 01, 2005). Adolescents with a Childhood Experience of Parental Divorce: A Longitudinal Study of Mental Health and Adjustment. Journal of Adolescence, 28, 6, 725-739.

CHAPTER 4

Why Early Intervention Is Important!

It is important for you to make sure your child has academic, financial, and mental health support throughout your divorce process.

The relational turmoil you are going through is also what your child is going through.

Remember that divorce is not a single event in time–it is experienced by your family long after initial separation.

The conflict witnessed by the most important people in your child’s life–you and your former spouse–has a long term effect on your child’s mental health.

**Check out our Age Appropriate Guide to Helping Your Child Through Divorce**

How Kid Matters Can Help

We help your child navigate the divorce transition.

Early therapeutic intervention is crucial to curtail the effects of divorce.

Be sure to check out our child therapists here!

Kid Matter Articles on Divorce

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