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5 Ways Divorce Affects Children

Jul 13, 2023 | Family

Divorce is a significant life change that can have lasting impacts on both spouses and their children. While divorce might be what’s best for everyone involved, it can be particularly disruptive in various aspects of a child’s life. Below are 9 ways divorce affects children, highlighting the potential challenges they may face during and after the separation of their parents.

  1.  Emotional & Behavioral Impacts
  2. The first, most obvious effect that divorce has on children is the emotional impact. When a couple decides to split, even if they do so amicably, it can be difficult for children to understand the reasons their parents no longer want to be married or living together, especially if they’re young. If the split was a highly-conflictive battle, it can be even more emotionally damaging for children as they are likely present for the harsh words exchanged during the process. 

    It’s common for children of divorce to experience a variety of feelings when it happens, but especially feelings of stress, anxiety and anger. In an article by Amy Morin, she discusses the emotional impacts of different aged children. For instance, she explains how young children simply can’t understand why their time is split between two homes, grade school children tend to blame or see themselves as the issue, and teenagers become angry and might blame one parent in particular or both as a whole. Just like adults, children also need to grieve the loss of the relationship that once existed between their parents. 

    As mentioned above, children can have different emotional reactions to the idea of divorce based on their age group, so it is likely that a change in behavior will also take place. Because a child may lack the emotional maturity to truly understand what’s going on, there is likely to be a shift in their behavior and attitude. Signs to look out for include: 

    • Withdrawing socially
    • Temper tantrums
    • Clinical depression
    • Engaging in risky behavior
    • And more!

    It’s important that parents who are divorcing keep a watchful eye out for shifts in behavior so that they can keep a tantrum or outburst from developing into destructive behaviors. 

  3. Impact on Mental & Physical Health
  4. Because emotional and behavioral impacts of divorce can have serious effects on a child’s well-being, this can lead to deeper, more serious effects like mental health issues. According to the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, teenagers with divorced parents are about 3 times as likely to need counseling over the course of a year and they’re at a much higher risk of developing mental health disorders like depression and anxiety. 

    Toxic stress, which can contribute to these disorders, is a reaction that a child can have to facing early-life adversity. This means that overwhelming feelings and emotions that can stem from the trauma of a divorce can cause an interruption to the development of their brain architecture and other organs, putting them at risk for life-long health issues.

    Additionally, high parental-conflict has been linked to trauma which is linked to low self-esteem. Low self-esteem can influence a child’s mental health, attitude, energy levels, ability to grow and learn, and other things. The signs include: 

    • Lack of participation
    • Putting themselves down
    • Blaming others for their mistakes
    • Being easily influenced by others
    • And more! 
  5. Academic & Social Challenges
  6. Divorce is a disruption to children’s entire lives. Everything that they know and are familiar with changes in both big and small ways. This disruption can quickly become evident in their academic career as it can be difficult for children to focus on schoolwork when their world is falling apart at home. It’s also been found that children of divorced parents are twice as likely to drop out of high school than their peers, ending their academic career completely. 

    Additionally, the effects of divorce can create social challenges for children as it can create feelings of isolation and inability to relate to others – especially young children, who are likely unfamiliar with the idea of divorce or blended families. A lack of socialization can also result in increased things like vulnerability to bullying or teasing which can further develop self-esteem issues.

  7. Financial Instability
  8. Because a divorce (typically) causes a divide in finances, the monetary support for children can be altered by a couple splitting. One parent may struggle to find the financial means to supplement the child’s extracurricular activities or educational opportunities, while another may have been financially dependent on their spouse and are now responsible for themselves and their child. 

    It has also been found that children of divorce’s ability to earn wages have significantly reduced with a wealth decrease of 46%. 

  9. Effect on Future Relationships
  10. Not only does a divorce affect the relationships between children and their parents, but it can also influence children’s future relationships. When parent’s divorce, it can feel like the trust between a parent and child has been broken, which can cause them to expect the same from their own personal relationships down the road. In fact, it’s been found that those with a low ability to trust who also casually date exhibit the strongest effects of parental divorce. An inability or low ability to trust can create strenuous relationships for children of divorce and even make it difficult to maintain any kind of long-term relationship.

  11. Coping Strategies
  12. It’s important for parents who are divorcing to consider the effect of divorce on their children as it’s a huge life transition for everyone involved. During that time children need their parents more than ever to strive to work cohesively and lessen the impact that a divorce can have on a family. Parents should be aware of the signs of emotional and behavioral impacts, physical and mental shifts in health, academic and social challenges and more so that they can find ways to help their children cope with the changes. Possible coping strategies parents can encourage include: 

  13. Mental health therapy
  14. Open communication
  15. Maintaining a consistent routine
  16. Engaging in new activities like journaling/drawing/playing sports
  17. Promoting self-care
  18. And more!
  19. How Equal Justice Law Group Can Help You

    Our firm understands how overwhelming divorce can be on you and your spouse, but if you also have children, it’s important you remember how big of an adjustment this is for them as well. At Equal Justice Law Group we’ll handle the paperwork and legal issues while guiding you through the divorce process so that you can focus on the well being of your children. Call today to schedule a Consultation and learn about your next steps. 

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