Sometimes couples considering divorce minimize how much of an impact getting divorced would have on their children. Children of all ages are affected when parents separate and divorce. It can affect their relationships, school and behavior.
Although most experts agree that if you’re constantly fighting, staying together for the sake of the children isn’t a healthy option. Instead, a better option is to learn how to get a long and keep the family intact when possible. For parents who do choose to divorce, it’s essential that they look at the drastic impact it can have on their children.
Divorce and Young Children
A lot of research suggests that the younger a child is, the bigger of an impact divorce can have on the child. Children under the age of 8 often have much difficulty making sense of a divorce. When kids don’t understand what’s happening, it can be especially difficult to adjust to the many changes that accompany divorce. Changes in living situations, only having the support of one parent at a time, and changes to daily routines can be very disruptive for children.
A study published by American Sociological Review in June of 2011 found that divorce led to setbacks for children in math. Also, kids from divorced families tended to have more difficulty with social skills. They were more likely to report feelings of anxiety, loneliness, and sadness and were more prone to low self-esteem when compared to children of married parents.
Interestingly, young kids began to have the most problems once divorce proceedings began. Although they likely don’t have a concept of what happens in court, they experienced increased distress which likely resulted because they picked up on their parents’ increased distress.
Young children often exhibit regressive behavior during and after a divorce. The stress of a divorce can lead to kids starting to wet the bed or it can make older kids revert to thumb-sucking. Young children also tend to become more dependent on their parents as they desperately try to look for reassurance they are still loved.
Divorce and Teenagers
While younger children often become more dependent during a divorce, teenagers often become more independent. Although it’s normal for teenagers to grow more independent and separate from their parents, divorce can cause them to do so faster and sometimes, before they’re ready.
Sometimes teenagers become rebellious as a result of divorce. They might misbehave in an attempt to gain attention or out of anger and frustration from their situation. Aggression might become a problem.
While younger children might blame themselves for divorce, older children sometimes blame one or both of their parents. Adolescents often look for a reason for divorce and want to know that it is divorced because my dad had an affair,” rather than saying, “I don’t know what happened.”
It can also influence a teenager’s relationships. Teens might be more apt to assume that relationships don’t work out and when they enter into them with that attitude, it can ensure that the relationship will be short-term. They can even carry this attitude into their own marriage which can lead to marital problems.
When Divorce Might Not be Bad for Kids
There are times when most experts would agree, parental separation is actually better for the kids. Kids shouldn’t be witnessing domestic violence. Exposing children to violence constitutes emotional abuse and it can have long lasting effects on kids.
Even if the fighting never becomes physical, ongoing serious conflict can also be detrimental to kids. Yelling, name calling and threatening one another can be damaging to a child’s development. Eventually, children think this sort of behavior is normal and might be at risk of repeating the cycle.
Exposing children to a parent’s substance abuse issues can also be more problematic than divorce. If children constantly witness a parent drinking heavily or using drugs, it can create serious problems for the child. It also puts the child at more risk of developing a substance abuse issue later in life.
Even in circumstances where divorce might be better for kids in the long run, they often experience difficulties adjusting to changes. The more difficulty parents have getting along throughout the divorce and after the divorce, the more problematic it is for the child.
What to Do If You’re Considering Divorce
Although it is best to seek professional help before you file for divorce, it’s never too late. Even if you feel like you’re marriage isn’t going to work out, talking a marriage counselor can help you find strategies to help your children deal with the situation. For parents who choose to divorce, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the impact it will have on children.
If you’re not certain about getting divorced, a marriage counselor can help you identify your options and clarify any steps you might want to take prior to getting divorced in an attempt to save the marriage. Counseling can also help you learn skills, such as how to improve communication, which is important whether you decide to stay married or get divorced.