How Divorce Affects Children

Going through a divorce is never easy. It can be an emotionally charged process that is filled with stress and uncertainty. But it's important to remember that there are more than just two people affected. When it comes to divorce, the emotional toll on children can be significant. In this blog, we will discuss the effects of divorce on children of all ages.

Factors that Impact the Effects of Divorce on Children

There are several factors that contribute to the negative effects of divorce on children. Some of these factors include:

  1. Loss of stability. Divorce often disrupts the family dynamic, leading to changes in living arrangements, custody schedules, and financial support. This loss of stability can create a sense of insecurity and anxiety in children.
  2. Parental conflict. Ongoing conflict between parents, both during and after the divorce, can cause significant stress and emotional turmoil for children.
  3. Feelings of guilt and blame. Children may internalize feelings of guilt or blame themselves for the divorce, which can lead to other emotional and psychological issues.
  4. Difficulty adjusting to change. Divorce often brings about numerous changes in a child's life, including new schools, neighborhoods, and social circles. Adjusting to these changes can be challenging for children and may result in feelings of isolation or depression.

The Effects of Divorce on Children

Divorce affects not only adults but also children of all ages. It is important to note that not all the effects of divorce on children are negative. Below, we will further discuss the negative and positive effect of divorce on children.

Negative Effects of Divorce on Children

The psychological and sociological impact of divorce on children can manifest in several ways, including:

  • Emotional distress. Children may experience feelings of sadness, anger, fear, and confusion as they try to make sense of the divorce.
  • Behavioral issues. Divorce may lead to increased aggression, defiance, and other behavioral problems in children.
  • Academic struggles. The stress and emotional turmoil caused by divorce can negatively impact a child's ability to concentrate and perform well in school.
  • Social difficulties. Children of divorced parents may struggle to form and maintain healthy relationships with their peers.

Common signs of distress include difficulty sleeping, acting out in school, and withdrawal from friends and family members. The effects of divorce on children can differ significantly based on their age:

  • Infants and toddlers (0-2 years). At this age, children are primarily affected by changes in their routine and the emotional state of their caregivers. They may show signs of distress, such as excessive crying, irritability, or difficulty sleeping.
  • Preschoolers (3-5 years). Preschoolers may struggle with understanding the concept of divorce and may blame themselves for their parents' separation. They may also experience regression in areas such as toilet training or language development.
  • School-aged children (6-12 years). At this age, children may experience feelings of sadness, anger, and fear about the future. They may also struggle academically and socially as they try to cope with the changes in their life.
  • Adolescents (13-18 years). Teenagers may feel a sense of betrayal or disillusionment about the institution of marriage. They may also experience challenges in forming their own romantic relationships and may be at an increased risk of engaging in risky behaviors, such as substance abuse or early sexual activity.

Positive Effects of Divorce on Children

While divorce is often viewed as a negative event that can have lasting effects on children, it is important to recognize that there are cases in which it can lead to positive outcomes, such as:

  • Improved parent-child relationships. Divorce can sometimes lead to stronger relationships between parents and their children. Because there is less marital conflict, parents may become more attentive and present.
  • Better mental health outcomes. In situations where a child's home environment was characterized by high levels of conflict and tension, divorce can lead to improved mental health outcomes. The separation of parents can provide relief from the stress of living in a volatile environment, allowing children to experience increased emotional stability and well-being.
  • Enhanced communication and conflict resolution skills. Experiencing their parents' divorce can teach children valuable lessons about communication and conflict resolution. Witnessing their parents navigate the challenges of separation can provide children with firsthand experience of how to effectively manage disagreements and express their emotions in a healthy way.

How to Support Your Child Through Divorce

One way for divorcing parents to make sure their kids feel supported throughout this difficult time is by seeking out professional help from a qualified counselor or therapist who specializes in family therapy. Working with a therapist can help children better understand what's going on and how they’re feeling while providing them with an outlet for expressing their emotions without fear of judgement or criticism from either parent.

Therapists can provide invaluable guidance for parents who may need assistance navigating through emotionally charged conversations with their kids about divorce-related issues. Divorcing parents should also be aware that their individual behavior during and after a divorce can have a significant impact on their kids’ wellbeing.

Parents who can remain civil during the process—focusing on maintaining healthy communication and minimizing conflict—are more likely to ensure that their children come out of the ordeal unscathed than those who are unable to do so. During or because of conflict, your child may feel the need to choose sides or place blame on either party.

Supporting Adult Children Through Divorce

Even though adult children may seem emotionally mature enough to deal with their parents' divorce, many couples underestimate the impact it can have. The cultural myth remains that a parent's separation is not significantly disruptive in an adult child’s life; despite the cultural myth, adult children of divorcing parents are affected by their parent's split.

Due to this common misbelief, many older couples electing for divorce do not consider or factor in how it may impact their own grown kids on an emotional level; however, doing so is crucial as adults with divorced backgrounds can be especially vulnerable.

With the transitional phase of college or starting a new job, younger adults may find themselves needing financial support from their parents and feel uncertain about what lies ahead. Because of the divorce, they may lose financial support and/or feel like they need to offer support to either parent, which can be stressful and anxiety-inducing.

Adult children can also struggle to handle parental tension, especially during family gatherings and celebrations (i.e. birthdays, weddings, graduations, etc.). To avoid having to choose sides or deal with the tension, they may distances themselves from either or both parents.

In some cases, adult children may also struggle with relationships and romance after learning of your divorce. This struggle can be the result of them rewriting memories from their childhood, involving their perspective on your marriage; it can also simply be because they now have a negative view on relationships.

To help your adult child cope with your divorce, you should take an active role by not only making sure their adult kids feel heard but also by avoiding placing them in the middle. If you try to force your child to pick sides or overshare about the tenuous relationship you have with the other party, they may struggle to cope or pull away from you.

Listening to what they are feeling is also crucial, as research has shown that being listened to helps humans process trauma and rebuild healthier foundations for themselves going forward. Your child may also share some needed boundaries with you that can help them going forward.

Here to Help You Smoothly Navigate the Divorce Process in Alabama

Divorce is never easy but understanding how your decision will affect your children is paramount when making this major life decision. If you have children and are divorcing, having an experienced attorney on your side can also help ease the transition for you and your family.

At Shaw Family Law, our attorney has over 30 years of experience helping clients navigate the divorce process. Whether you need help filing or responding to a divorce petition or modifying an existing agreement, we are equipped to help.

Call (205) 259-7650 to schedule an initial consultation today.