How Divorce Affects Children
The Effects of Divorce on Children
The decision to end a marriage is not an easy one, and it can be harder when estranged couples have to face the effects of a divorce on their children. There are both short- and long-term issues resulting from a divorce when you have children.
Divorce in America
Divorce is a fact of life in the United States. As a result, the number of children affected has risen. Some research has shown that the ratio of children living in single-parent households has increased by almost 50% in the last decade. A conflict-ridden home is not the best environment for children. Kids can be more sensitive to stress, especially those that produce loud arguments.
In many cases, the only right decision is to walk away from the marriage. Unfortunately, children will have many questions about why you chose to do so. Some kids might start to exhibit emotional and physical signs of stress. You want to do everything you can to minimize the effects of the divorce. Before you think about those long-term problems, you need to tell the children that their parents are separating.
Breaking the news to the children about the divorce can be challenging. You will want to be mindful of their ages and maturity levels, but never keep the decision a secret from them or lie to them about it. Children need time to be reassured, especially when the other parent moves out of the home. Telling them about the divorce can help ease their sense of fear about the future. Often, children feel like they may be left behind or forgotten as the household separates. They also may be angry or confused.
In many cases, the children believe that they are the reason for the divorce. Always explain to them that this is not the case and that both parents will continue to love them even in separate homes. While you want to be open and honest with your children, it is important to never argue or yell at the other spouse in front of them, and do not disparage your ex to the children. If you have to talk to your divorce lawyer, conduct your business away from the children.
Children Can Suffer a Traumatic Loss
Once children learn about the situation, it is normal for them to feel angry. Remember that their whole world is changing, and they have no control over it. Anger is known to strike at any age, but it is present in school-age children and teenagers. These emotions stem from the children feeling a loss of control and abandonment. They will also feel angry if they feel like a pawn in the divorce proceedings,
Some children, especially younger ones, may be scared more than angry. You may notice signs of separation anxiety that can include:
- Increased crying
- Clinginess to one parent
- Regressed behavior, such as requiring the need of a pacifier or safety blanket or wetting the bed
- Temper tantrums
Along with that, the children may start to withdraw socially. For example, if your child was a social butterfly but is now anxious or shy, that could stem from the divorce. Some children will lose interest in activities or fear new social situations. Parents can help with these issues by boosting their children’s confidence and discussing their emotional health.
Unfortunately, while many children will feel sad or vulnerable after a divorce, some studies have shown that some of them have a risk of developing clinical depression. Even more concerning, a few will have a higher risk of suicide threats or attempts. While depression can impact children of any age, these issues are prominent in those who are 11 and older. Also, boys often have more suicidal risks than girls. For that reason, it is important to enlist the help of a licensed mental health professional for your child.
Other Effects of Divorce
Emotional issues are some of the outward effects of a divorce, but other problems can flare up. There have been a few questions about whether children begin to put on weight after a divorce. Children’s eating habits may change. When they are upset, they could turn to sweets for comfort. Also, those who are feeling depressed don’t want to participate in any physical activity, and this can lead to weight issues.
Along with that, some kids may have problems with sleeping. Research has shown that a good night’s sleep helps to promote a healthy lifestyle. When your child does not get enough rest, it can lead to school performance issues and mental health problems.
Your children’s grades may suffer in school. Kids going through the divorce process could start disengaging with their school work and peers. Some children feel neglected, distracted, or depressed with the increased conflict between their parents. Over time, that lack of interest in school could mean the child refuses to seek future higher education opportunities.
Some children will pick sides in the divorce. A few kids will go through cognitive dissonance and loyalty conflict. In simple terms, the children are uncomfortable being “stuck in the middle,” and they will choose one parent over the other. These children might have a sudden need for “fairness.” Some physical symptoms may occur, including:
- Stomach aches
- Trouble swallowing
- Chest pains
Over the years, that loyalty conflict might become more pronounced, leading to a total breakdown in communication with the other parent.
Helping Kids Cope
Even the most amicable divorces can lead to problems with the children. When it comes time to end the marriage, your children will appreciate your transparency about the situation. You also want to encourage them to talk to you. Make sure that you explain they will always have a safe place to share their feelings. Isolation is a significant problem with children. If you are receptive to their thoughts and feelings, it can go a long way to ease these emotional and physical symptoms.
Remember that not all kids are the same. Some will process this type of change differently. One child might be okay with the divorce while the other is experiencing emotional issues. You will want to pay attention to their emotional and physical cues. If something seems off, then seek help for your child. You always want to reach out for guidance and never ignore those emotional issues. Ask for assistance from your family and friends. If they cannot help, it may be time to talk to your pediatrician or mental health professional.
Finally, it is okay to be kind to yourself. While children need a centered and strong parent, showing emotions in front of them is acceptable. When you show those emotions, your kids will be more likely to open up and talk about their feelings.
Yes, children are resilient, but divorce can still greatly impact them. Ultimately, you will want to do what is right for your family. Always explain the new situation to the children and assure them that they have a safe place to discuss their thoughts and feelings. You will always be a family. However, sometimes, change is part of the process.
Find a Divorce Lawyer in New Jersey
While you may want to work things out for the children, some divorces are inevitable. At the Law Offices of Kelly Berton Rocco, we may be able to help answer those questions about your situation. You can call our office in Hackensack at (201) 343-0078 or visit our website to schedule a consultation.