Divorce’s Effect on Children
While most adapt well, some children will suffer significant adjustment problems. They will at the very least be anxious about their relationships within the family and about the disruption in their own lives. A lot depends on how you handle it — you can make an enormous difference in how well they cope.
Below are some ways to reduce divorce’s emotional impact on children.
- Give them as much reassurance as possible. Keep telling them that they are not responsible for the break-up.
- Talk over what is happening in an age-appropriate way.
- Be open to their questions and encourage them to talk about their feelings, but don’t force them to talk.
- Encourage them to maintain their relationship with the other parent. Don’t criticize the other parent, demand exclusive loyalty, or use them to hurt your ex-partner.
- Avoid looking to your children for support or guidance. Ask friends or a therapist instead.
- Maintain normal household routines as far as possible.
- Look for signs of distress: increasingly clingy behavior, tantrums, fear of separation, anxiety at bedtime, changes in eating and sleeping patterns, thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, headaches or stomachaches, increased aggression or perfectionism.
If you observe these symptoms, let the child know that you understand they are upset and it’s OK to talk about it to you or another trusted adult. Help them express themselves as best they can and seek professional help if signs of distress continue.
- To reduce conflict around holidays, keep expectations realistic, including expectations of yourself. Don’t make younger children decide which parent to spend the holiday with; this will cause enormous distress. Parents should not try to outdo each other, or make up for problems, with presents or other indulgences.
Collingwood, J. (2007). Reduce the Stress of a Divorce. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 25, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/2007/reduce-the-stress-of-a-divorce/
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.