Divorce is probably the most difficult phase of a married couple’s life. While many couples are worried about their broken marriage and the future of their living situation, they may worry most about how their kids will deal with their separation.
In the US alone, statistics reveal that both marriage rates and divorce rates are decreasing. Recent reports show that this decline is driven by the fact that millennials are choosing to wait longer to get married. As of 2016, the divorce rate in the country is 3.2 per 1,000 population. Meanwhile, the divorce rate per 1,000 married women is 16.9. Some of these couples might eventually get over a tough period. Unfortunately, children become a collateral casualty.
According to experts, the impacts of divorce can be long-lasting for kids. Witnessing their parents separate for good may affect them even as they turn into adults. Some children even blame themselves for the separation. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry reported that many kids falsely consider themselves the reason behind their parents’ divorce and assume the responsibility to mend the relationship.
As they grow into adults, the effects of divorce may impact their behaviors and interactions with people.
Emotional and Psychological Impacts
As children watch their parents get divorced, they may experience mixed emotions—but mostly sadness and anxiety. The thought of not getting to see their parents together can lead to immense stress and pressure on the young mind, resulting in several repercussions such as negative thoughts and nightmares. They may think that nothing’s good in their lives and may eventually plunge into depression.
According to VeryWell Family, a modern resource that offers a realistic and friendly approach to pregnancy and parenting, children struggle the most during the first year or two after the divorce of their parents. They are likely to experience distress, anger, anxiety, and disbelief. Experts say that these emotions may arise from feelings of abandonment or loss of control. Children may have a lot of questions about the separation and often don’t understand why couples need to break up or separate. They also get confused about their new situation.
Often, children find it difficult to understand why their parents have to live in different houses. They may worry that if their parents can stop loving one another, they may also stop loving them. It’s easy for kids to come to this conclusion because the conflict between parents during a divorce is often accompanied by less affection and less responsiveness. Because of these, it increases the risk of mental health problems in children and adolescents.
Previous studies revealed that depression and anxiety rates are higher in children from divorced parents. Even more concerning, a few are also at higher risk of suicide threats or attempts. According to MomJunction.com, a website that gives advice on all things about pregnancy and parenting, experts say that divorce can be a contributing factor in cases of bipolar disorder observed in children. A study conducted by researchers from the University of Toronto found that men who came from a divorced family during their childhood were more than three times as likely to consider suicide than men whose parents never divorced.
Children who have divorced parents are also at great risk of developing violent and antisocial behavior. Studies show that most children of divorce display the characteristic traits of aggression and disobedience with varying degrees of intensity. They may also experience more externalizing problems, such as conduct disorders, impulsive behavior, and delinquency. It’s also possible for them to engage in risky behaviors such as abuse of alcohol and drugs.
Helping Your Kids Cope
Divorce is an incredibly difficult time for children. While this decision is done with the best intentions, parents need to consider their kids’ feelings and help them understand your situation. Separation isn’t an easy topic but it’s important that parents are transparent with them.
1 – Help them understand
Whatever is it that you are going through, it’s important that your children understand your situation. This way, they would feel that you also care for them. It’s always been difficult to open up about your struggles but doing this will help kids to empathize.
2 – Maintain a healthy relationship with your children
One major reason children feel that they are being left out during a divorce is that parents don’t spend enough time with them. While this is quite understandable as they are going through a difficult time, they also need to prioritize their kids. Experts say that low levels of conflict, parental warmth, and positive communication may help them adjust to divorce better.
3 – Understand that all kids process change differently
Parents need to be patient. Explaining and trying to make them understand the divorce doesn’t always work for some kids. And that’s okay. There are still plenty of ways to talk to them. The important part is not giving up on them although it may seem hopeless sometimes. Experts suggest paying attention to any acting out or other cues you see and pivot your approach accordingly.
4 – Help kids feel safe and secure
It’s extremely important that kids feel that you still love them and they will be taken care of despite the divorce. This helps in not making them experience fear of abandonment, which causes a lot of anxiety. It would be helpful to make your kids feel loved, safe, and secure can not only reduce clinginess but also diminish the risk of mental health problems.
5 – Maintain a healthy routine
According to several experts, it’s important to not let divorce disrupt the routine of your children whether it’s feeding, bathing, and sleeping. In this way, they will not be surprised by the major changes brought by the divorce. Cuddle with the child and make it a point to spend quality time together. It will all bring a sense of normalcy into the life of the child.
6 – Reach out for help
Most of the time, it’s not easy to manage processing divorce papers while also taking care of children. If children start to display some warning signs, it’s best to seek professional help. This could help them sort out their emotions.