When you’re going through a divorce, there are many factors to consider including how divorce is harming our children. Divorce is not easy for anyone and unfortunately, children take the brunt in many situations. This is why it’s important to realize that there are ways to alleviate some of the effects of divorce to make this difficult time and the process as painless as possible for children’s lives.
Consequences of divorce – When, and Why, Divorce Hurts Kids
To better understand how to help kids deal with separation or divorce, we need to take a look at how divorce is harming our children. Although we see kids as resilient when compared to adults, they are still affected by divorce. The family unit as they knew it no longer exists. Divorce can bring feelings of uncertainty, anger, and sadness.
During the first year or two after divorce, many children of divorced parents are likely to feel angry, depressed, anxious, and have trouble processing what’s going on, especially if they’re younger. For children, the divorce process is scary, confusing, and frustrating.
When experiencing divorce, younger children often struggle with understanding what’s going on and why they have to go to different homes to see their parents. As the children of divorced parents get older, they begin to wonder if their parents’ divorce is somehow their fault. While it isn’t, the idea of why their parents split is still hard to comprehend.
How divorce is harming our children changes with teenagers. They often become angry about divorce because it alters their lives. For some, divorce means moving, changing schools, and living with only one parent. Since the negative effect of divorce often leaves parents frazzled, there may be more arguments because of the stress the divorce has caused. The parent who has custody may feel more stressed because everything is on their shoulders while the other parent must make a conscious effort to play a role in their children’s lives. When the non-custodial parent does not make that effort, there are even more issues that can arise.
Since divorce also means a reduction in income in many single-parent family homes, some adjustments may need to be made when it comes to living a different lifestyle than you may have become used to. This can be a very difficult time, but these are just some of the consequences of divorce.
10 Effects of Divorce on Children — and Helping Children Cope following separation or divorce
The negative effect of divorce will impact children in many different ways. Here are ten common ways that children’s lives can be affected by separation or divorce.
1. They feel angry or have mental health problems.
Feelings of anger surface because children may be mad that their parents are separating and can’t find a way to work it out. Some children can get past it over time while others hold on to this anger and may begin to lash out.
2. They may withdraw socially.
Many children of divorced parents often feel different than other kids and may not want to socialize with their peers. They may feel as though their family is the only one going through a divorce when that is certainly not the case. They may feel as though they just want to be alone.
3. Child development – their grades might suffer.
As children try to navigate through the divorce and understand what’s going on, they may get distracted and disinterested in schoolwork. As a result, their grades may suffer.
4. They feel separation anxiety or other psychological problems.
Younger children may experience separation anxiety if they are now living with one parent instead of two. This can take time for them to work through as they need the support of both parents.
5. Little ones may regress.
Regression can be seen in children exhibiting behavior like thumb-sucking, bed wetting, and temper tantrums. These are all signs of stress in children ages 18 months to six years old.
6. Their eating and sleeping patterns change.
As we look at ways of how divorce is harming our children, another thing to look at is their sleeping and eating patterns. One study shows that some children tend to gain more weight compared to children of parents who are not divorced.
Children can also have trouble sleeping due to anxiety and depression. This can lead to weight gain and irritability.
7. They may pick sides.
It’s not uncommon for children to pick sides as their parents go through a divorce. They may do this naturally or may be influenced by one parent. It’s important for parents not to brainwash children into believing one parent is better than the other. Children should love and respect both parents.
8. They go through depression.
Children can become depressed just like adults. Studies show that children of divorce are at risk of developing clinical depression. It’s important to realize that children of all ages can experience depression. Parents should pay close attention so that they can get their children the help they need.
9. They engage in risky behaviors.
Some children of divorce may engage in risky behavior such as trying drugs and alcohol at a young age. Others may engage in risky sexual behavior. According to American Psychological Association, girls tend to have sex at an earlier age in households where fathers are not present.
10. They face their own relationship struggles.
When children see their parents divorce, they may begin to wonder if they’ll have the same future. As they get older, they may experience trust issues and be hesitant to be in a long-term relationship.
They may also experience more conflict with their peers because of the emotional rollercoaster they are on. This is something that parents will want to monitor so that it doesn’t escalate into more severe issues. Children of divorce may also be more impulsive than children who live in two-parent homes. These impulses can impact relationships and can impact behaviors as we mentioned above.
Helping your kids cope with separation or divorce
As we look at how divorce is harming our children, it’s important to also look at how to help your kids cope with the new family structure. With the proper tools and intervention, you can lessen the negative impact divorce can have on your children.
Ignoring warning signs or putting off dealing with issues can lead to bigger problems down the road. You want to be proactive and face issues head-on. This will help everyone involved.
Take steps to help kids bounce back faster after experiencing divorce
There are steps you can take to help your kids bounce back from divorce quicker. This involves talking to them about their emotions. Many times, kids have trouble talking about their feelings and the breakup of their parent’s marriage may express them in negative ways. If you can be open and honest about your feelings, your children will feel as though they can do the same.
You can also be patient and realize that children process things and deal with them at different paces. By being patient, you are showing that you understand what they’re going through and will help them every step of the way. If you get frustrated, you’re only going to fuel the fire which will make the process that much worse for them.
If you can co-parent peacefully, you’ll be helping your child immensely. When parents fight continuously, especially in front of the child, the child suffers. Parenting conflicts, screaming, and threatening each other in front of the children can lead to behavior problems, anxiety, and depression.
Avoid Putting Kids in the Middle
Don’t ask children to choose one parent over the other. Also, don’t make them the middleman and ask them to relay messages. Be the adult and deal with your ex on your own. Let kids be kids and enjoy their time with each parent without worrying about being the middleman.
Maintain Healthy Relationships
Maintaining healthy relationships all-around will benefit the children. They need to see positivity around them. Positive communications, as well as low levels of conflict, are most beneficial.
Use Consistent Discipline
Discipline with both parents needs to be consistent. This means punishments need to be the same no matter which parent the child is spending time with. When discipline is inconsistent, children become confused.
Monitor Adolescents Closely
Adolescence is a tricky time no matter if parents are divorced or together. When you add divorce into the equation, it can become dangerous as kids lash out and may exhibit risky behavior. Staying on top of the situation can prevent this from happening.
Empower Your Children
Teaching your child to deal with divorce and encouraging them that they have the mental strength to do so is important for their development. This will help them to become stronger and more confident adults.
Teach Coping Skills
Everyone can use a lesson in coping skills. Kids who learn problem-solving skills as they go through a divorce will be stronger in the end. Teach your children healthy ways to deal with thoughts, feelings, and behaviors so that they can get through a divorce and anything else life throws their way. They’ll thank you in the end.
Help Kids Feel Safe
Many kids going through divorce often feel alone and abandoned. Helping them feel safe can reduce feelings of depression.
Seek Parent Education
Many parents don’t know how to deal with divorce themselves, never mind helping their children deal with it. There are many programs available to help parents navigate through the divorce and make the adjustments necessary to also help children. These programs can also educate parents about how divorce is harming their children and common problems to avoid.
Get Professional Help
There are many situations when professional help is needed to help everyone get through a divorce. Therapy can help as well as maintaining self-care.
When to Seek Help for Your Child
It’s normal for children to feel sad about divorce. Many parents may consider staying together for the sake of the child, but it’s also not healthy for children to live in an environment where there is constant arguing. This can also lead to mental health issues and behavior problems. If you decide that divorce is the best solution, be aware of any mood or behavioral problems that may arise.
Individual and family therapy sessions can help everyone work through the issues that divorce can trigger. There are also support groups for children and young people going through a divorce. Many times, children benefit from talking to children who are going through the same situation. Look to see the resources available in your area that may help your child.
As you and your child go through a divorce it’s important to remember that everyone is in it together. Constantly supporting one another and looking for how divorce is harming our children and knowing how to cope can make the process better for everyone.