Experts agree that divorce affects kids, but how, and can they rebound? Here’s what you need to know.
Effects of Divorce on Kids
If you’re like most parents going through a divorce, your primary concern is your kids’ health and happiness. You’re probably worried about whether your split will traumatize your kids – and you’re wondering if there’s anything you can do to make the process (and the aftermath) easier on them.
The good news is that while experts agree divorce affects children, they also agree that there are many things parents can do to help their children bounce back and become more resilient and emotionally strong than ever.
How Does Divorce Affect Kids?
The uncertainty about what’s going to happen next, the conflict they see between their parents, and the disparities in parenting styles after the divorce are most difficult for kids to cope with.
“Divorce introduces a massive change into the life of a boy or girl no matter what the age. Witnessing loss of love between parents, having parents break their marriage commitment, adjusting to going back and forth between two different households, and the daily absence of one parent while living with the other, all create a challenging new family circumstance in which to live,” says Dr. Carl E. Pickhardt, Ph.D.
Kids have to deal with:
- Major lifestyle changes
- Moving to a different home
- Not seeing or spending time with both their parents at the same time
Adjusting to these changes can take a while. Many younger kids fantasize about their parents getting back together, and kids of all ages may blame themselves.
What kids really want is to “feel more connected in a family situation where a major disconnection has occurred,” says Dr. Pickhardt.
You can help, though, by establishing a sense of order and predictability. Know that most kids adjust well over time, and the vast majority have bounced back before two years have elapsed. Kids are resilient!
According to Scientific American, “Children fare better if parents can limit conflict associated with the divorce process or minimize the child’s exposure to it. Further, children who live in the custody of at least one well-functioning parent do better than those whose primary parent is doing poorly.”
To help mitigate the effects of divorce on kids, you can:
- Support your children and provide loving, caring environments where kids can share their feelings
- Answer questions in age-appropriate, honest ways
- Provide emotional support in other areas of the kids’ lives
- Stick to the same parenting styles during and after divorce
- Provide middle-of-the-road rules; not too strict and not too lax
- Make sure your children have social support from their peers
- Take children to talk to a counselor or therapist who understands divorce
Your attorney will tell you not to involve your children in the ugly parts of your divorce – you can’t use them as messengers between you and your ex, and you can’t use them as miniature therapists. However, it is important that both parents communicate clearly with kids by answering questions honestly (in age-appropriate ways) and by reassuring children that even though they don’t love each other, they will always love the kids.
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