The Impact of Divorce on Children of all Ages


Divorce is a cruel reality of 21st-century the U.S. life. Reasons for family breakdowns are different, but usually include infidelity, money troubles, stress, and so on. Divorce is an emotionally hard experience for everyone, and it seems that it leaves scars in the child’s soul forever. Many kids can’t get over and overcome divorce of their parents throughout life. Let’s see.

Terrifying Statistics Data about Divorce Rate

According to the research of American Psychological Association, up to 50% of married couples in the U.S. will divorce sooner or later. Unfortunately, the divorce rate among re-married couples is even higher. Data show that the average length of marriages in the U.S. nowadays is eleven years. The only good thing is that more than 90% of all divorces end with an agreement, out of court.

Statistic data show that in the U.S. the divorce rate during last year is the highest in Oklahoma, Nevada, Wyoming, and Texas and the lowest in Iowa. For a few past decades, divorces have been increasing in the U.S. and approximately a whole million of children experience parental separation or divorce every year. According to some research, more than half of divorced couples have at least one child under the age of 18, and about 28% of kids are under the age of six.

The Sad Reality about Divorce

The main problem is that the end of most marriages includes harmful emotions such as anxiety, anger, fear, and grief. Many couples consider their divorce as a battle and believe that they need to prove themselves who is a ‘winner’ in this terrible situation. Both of them are not able to understand that divorce means that all of the family members loose happiness, support, security, and love.

When emotions are running high, it is pretty hard speaking with your ex-spouse. In some way, they are responsible for what is happening to them, but very often they are not only ones who suffer this situation. Children are not the cause of marital problems in any possible way, but basically, they are victims in the background. Many of them blame themselves for divorcing her parents although they haven’t influenced the events in any way.

What About the Children?

Some new researchers confirm that children experience much more problems while they live with parents in high-conflict marriages than after peaceful divorce. On the other hand, after their parents split up, kids usually need up to two years to recover enough after the divorce. How easy or hard will be for children to overcome the divorce mainly depends on their parents.

It’s up to adults how much they try to make the situation more comfortable for their little ones. Sometimes it is enough to separate their ugly mutual conflict away from children. It is the way to keep children safe from possible social and psychological problems. Ultimately, this should be the primary goal of every parent.

What Do the Children Feel When Parents Divorce?

The fact that their parents no longer love each other is a horrible thing for every child. When parents decide to live apart, a child’s world all of a sudden turns upside down. The level of child’s upset varies depending on the age of the child, the way parents separated, and the level of the support both parents give their little one.

In situations like that, children usually feel a terrible sense of loss. They lose one parent, a home, and the whole way of life they are used to. In most cases, they are afraid of the possibility that they will be left alone in the entire world. The child’s logic says that if one parent goes, there is a real possibility that the other will do the same thing. Sometimes they are angry with only one parent, but very often they blame both parents for the relationship breakdown.

Because of fear of abandonment, children rarely say what is troubling them. The suppression of these emotions often leads to behavioral disorders. It is a problem that every divorced parent can face. What is worst, there is no universal solution to the problem because each child is unique and special.

Expected Reactions of Children of Different Ages to Divorce

Regardless of children ages, they are usually the biggest losers when their parents separate or get a divorce. It is the fact that, after divorce, mothers try to strengthen their affection with kids. Unfortunately, fathers do the opposite, and very often neglect their children.

But, even in perfect conditions, when both parents take care of the welfare of the child, the kid can’t remain indifferent to the divorce of the parents and the destruction of their family. There is no uniform and straightforward answer on which way a child will react to divorce, but their reaction can be very severe depending on their age.

How divorce impacts toddlers

For very young kids, the family is the whole their world. Divorce breaks everything they consider as safety and stability. All of a sudden, they have to accept that they have two homes, new friends, and new neighborhood. Generally, toddlers feel guilty, rejected, and torn between their parents. All that cause that they can become very insecure.

There is a lot of situation when an insecure toddler starts to behave like a ‘baby’. They have nightmares, start to suck the thumb, suffer tantrums, and so on. A good child suddenly starts to have problems with disobedience or begins with bed wetting. Sadly, this behavior is usually connected with a visit to the parent who lives apart from the family. The regression is usually a result of child’s effort to obtain parental concern, mainly the concern of absent parent as a way of seeking for more connections in a new situation.

Toddlers up to three years old can be very confused about divorce because they have pretty limited cognitive abilities. They personalize their own world (actually, the family is the whole their world) and consequently they may feel that divorce is somehow their fault. Moreover, they don’t have the skills to deal with adjustments and alterations. As a result, they will probably be vulnerable to emotional problems (which are normal and usually easily manageable for children) later in life.

You can help

Find a way to convince a child that the divorce is permanent. It can be extremely hard because of the intensity of kid’s fantasizes that her parents will live back together again. If her parents come together to some special family celebrations, it will just feed the child’s hope. It is the certain way to delay kid’s adjustment. Please, be careful!

How divorce impacts school-age children (ages 6-12)

Divorce always has a severe impact on the child’s development, especially when parents remarry right after the divorce. Well, kids of this age are still egocentric, and they can feel a responsibility because their parents are separated. Also, schoolchildren can believe that they can do something important which will lead to parent’s reconciliation. It’s inconceivable for them that their parents (who belong to them) no more live together. Having a parent living apart is utterly unacceptable to them.

The brain developing during early childhood is very vulnerable to stress. Therefore school-age children, who are in the middle of the process of their own identity developing, may negatively react to the stress hormone Cortisol. This hormone can change their impulse control and brain architecture over time.

Very often after the parent’s divorce, schoolchildren have to change a school. They suddenly face new friends, new terms, new customs, a new way of life, sometimes a new country as well. The short-term child reaction can be an anxious one. While they try to customize to new terms, their response can be more regressive.

You can help

You can expect aggression, withdrawal, and disobedient behavior in the classroom. The results of a child daydreaming about parental conciliation are lack of focus in school, avoiding doing schoolwork, and worse grades at school than previous ones. Also, you should pay attention to one more thing. Children understand what divorce means and can deliberately criticize one of the parents or show their anger by taking sides.

How divorce impacts teenagers (12-18)

Children usually stay with their mothers which can be very traumatic for them, especially for sons who often feel less supported by their fathers. To make things worse, fathers too often avoid engaging with their children. Therefore, it’s not rare that teenagers react very violently when they have to face parent’s divorce.

They can show their suffering by withdrawing into themselves, behaving badly, and have difficulties to concentrate at school. Also, very serious studies show that they can feel less affection for their divorced parents, and start to avoid contacts with them.

Be very careful because teenagers can be prone to respond to the parent’s divorce with acute depression and even suicidal idealization in the extreme cases. If depression becomes dominate child’s feeling, it will lead to severe mental health problems. Plus, some of their peers can find these children an unpleasant company. This feeling of complete rejection may lead to early sexual exploits or drug addiction.

You can help

Your job as a parent is to help your child to find her balance successfully showing her that you love her unconditionally.

How divorce impacts adolescents

If your child is an adolescent, divorce tends to speed up the adolescent’s independence. These children often respond more aggressively. These independent-minded kids very often react in a rebellious way disregarding family discipline. They believe that they have to take care of themselves since parents have failed to keep a family safe. Can you condemn these kids entirely because they think that it’s acceptable hurting parents if their parents don’t mind hurting them?

We can expect that adolescents will, in one moment, use aggression to take control of their life, dedicated to their own self-interests. It is normal that these children will feel as wholly disconnected family members in the new circumstances. They will probably decide that they have all rights to act on their own.

You can help

If you are a divorced parent with an adolescent, you should help her to increase dedication to her own self-seeking. You also need to insist on her responsibility. Encourage her to participate in school activities or some sports. Your primary goal should be to prevent bullying, possibly physical violence, and aggressiveness towards their peers.

15 Ways You Can Help Your Child After Divorce

Every divorce has negative effects on the child’s development. No matter how old your child is, a healthy parenting style can modify the consequences of the parents’ separation.

1 – Make sure that your child knows she still has both of you

2 – Show your kid that both her parents love her and that they will continue to take care of her welfare no matter what happens

3 – Protect your child from your responsibilities and worries

4 – Explain to your kid that all responsibility for divorce is on parents and that there is no child’s guilt at all

5 – Talk to your child. She deserves to know what’s going on and she has all possible rights to ask questions

6 – Spend enough time with your child

7 – Don’t forget her birthdays and important events

8 – Make it clear that there is no her fault for any parents’ decisions

9 – Make as few changes as possible in the beginning. Only carry on with the usual routine. It will help a kid feels that life can be ‘normal’ even in a newly created situation

10 – Avoid pulling the child into the conflict. Your child shouldn’t take sides

11 – It is not fair to question your child about the other parent’s activities

12 – Your child is not a ‘weapon’ against the other parent

13 – Don’t criticize the other parent in front of your child. Please, remember that your little one loves you both equally. You can’t achieve anything useful if you convince your child that she should hate one of her parents

14 – Be aware that your child can’t take the role of your ex-partner

15 – Ask for help if you can’t solve problems on your own

It is not unusual that some families ask a specialist for help. There is always the local mental health service for children and adolescents. If your child has difficulties, don’t hesitate to find someone who will help her. However, if parents behave sensitively, most children adapt well to the new life circumstances and don’t have too many difficulties in the longer term.

Believe me; it will be helpful if you honestly talk to your children. They will feel all the benefits of having an honest conversation about what has happened. They need to be prepared for all the changes their family will experience in the future.Make these sudden changes more natural for your kids. Inform them about moving to a new home at least a few weeks earlier. Announce them that one parent (usually it is a father) will move out and try to minimize changes during the months (even years) following a divorce.Keep in mind that it’s easier for children to submit divorce if they have a better relationship with one or both parents.


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