Divorce can be difficult for the entire family and can be particularly hard for children. Children are generally very resilient and adaptive, but parents can support their children during the divorce to help them with the changes they are facing. Learn about the effects of divorce on children, and how parents can help their children adjust.
Emotional Effects of Divorce
It can be easy for parents who are caught up in the painful emotions of divorce to forget that their children are also affected. Children may feel abandoned or that they are losing one or both parents to the divorce. They may also experience anxiety about upcoming changes, depression, and behavioral changes. Children can also feel or think that they are the reason their parents are getting a divorce. It isn’t uncommon to see children make behavioral changes in hopes of stopping the divorce and reconciling their parents.
Academic Effects of Divorce
The stress of divorce can negatively impact children’s academic performance and social skills. Generally, the younger the child is at the time of divorce, the greater the impact the divorce has on them. Children of divorced parents may struggle to keep up with their peers academically, have a more difficult time focusing in class or on homework, be unable to get the help they need from parents, miss out on social or extracurricular opportunities, and score lower on tests.
Lifetime Effects of Divorce
Children are resilient and may appear to bounce back from divorce after some time, but a divorce can have lingering effects that show up much later. Children of divorced parents may be more prone to depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. These children may also have relationship difficulties later in life and struggle to maintain romantic relationships and friendships. Often, children of divorced parents will also go through a divorce as an adult.
Positive Effects of Divorce
Divorce may also have positive effects for children, as well. It can bring relief if the parents’ fighting is causing stress for the child. The effects of divorce can also encourage more positive effects and can help children develop life skills.
- Resiliency: Children must adapt to the changes in their life, especially if they spend time living with both parents. When faced with challenges, children must learn to acclimate and can develop coping strategies. The resiliency that children of divorced parents can cultivate may help them handle stressful situations later in life.
- Self-Sufficiency: Economic challenges can teach children how to handle situations and resolve issues on their own. Parents may work and need older children to spend time home alone or help out with chores. Younger children may have to spend time in day care or in the care of older siblings. Self-sufficiency can grow a child’s confidence in their own ability.
- Empathy: Children who go through a divorce may experience a profound sense of loss and upset feelings. Learning how to handle these feelings can help children develop empathy for others.
- Increased Quality Time with Parents: Both parents may take a more mindful approach to quality time, and focus on setting aside time to spend with their child when the child is living with them or they are visiting. Separate time with parents allows children to form strong bonds with both parents, and learn more about each parent as an individual. Often, Divorced parents set aside more time to spend with their children because of the difficulty of shared custody.
- Different Views on Relationships: After experiencing divorce and the pain and stress it can bring, children may grow up to take a more hands-on approach with their own relationships. While some children may not approach marriage with much dedication or trust when they are older, others may be willing to invest more effort into their relationships to prevent breakups. They may spend more conscientious time improving and focusing on their relationships.
How Parents Can Help
Divorce comes with many challenges, and it can have a lasting effect on the entire family. Parents can help cultivate the positive effects and minimize the negative effects of divorce, however. Helping your children feel cared for and loved can help your child to successfully navigate this troubling time and face the changes. Here are some tips for parents:
- Answer questions that your children ask. You may not always know the answer, but encouraging questions can keep a dialogue open with your children and encourage a healthy relationship with them.
- Focus on quality time, even before the divorce is finalized. Take time to go to extracurricular activities, play games, or spend time out of the house and away from the stress of divorce.
- Reaffirm your love for your children, and let them know that they are still going to be cared for and loved, even after the divorce.
- Remind your children that they are not to blame for the divorce, and explain that sometimes relationships need to end for a good reason.
- Build a support network for your children. Encourage them to talk with a counselor, teacher, therapist, or trusted family friend. They may feel that they are unable to say everything they are feeling to you.
- Don’t use your children to keep tabs on your spouse, even after the divorce. This forces children to choose sides.
- Encourage your children to have a relationship with both parents, and support their desire to spend time with the other parent.
- If you child is struggling academically, you should ask their teachers for recommendations to help. Your children’s teacher may recommend tutoring, counseling, or other supportive measures to help your child succeed.
Your children may need extra support during the divorce process. As a parent, it is important that you take the time to help them, answer questions, and spend time with them. Simple actions can help prevent your divorce from affecting your children as strongly, and can help them develop skills they will use for the rest of their life.
If you are facing a divorce, get help from the Hedayati Law Group P.C. Our team of Long Island divorce attorneys is backed by more than a century of combined experience, and we believe that every family deserves compassionate legal solutions, personalized to their individual needs. We are with your family for every step of the divorce process.
Contact our offices to schedule a complimentary consultation with our team.