But… What about the kids? We are sure this question has popped up in your mind and also during discussions or arguments before deciding if you should or shouldn’t get a divorce.
No matter how difficult your marriage has become, I am sure your children’s well-being must be one of your top priorities (as they should). Even though the process might be hard, keep in mind every child will react differently to hearing the news and the whole process that will ensue.
So, his post is not to dissuade you about getting a divorce, just to prepare you for what might be coming along your way.
How Do Kids Cope With Divorce?
Unsurprisingly, the most negative effects on children are not developed from the divorce itself, but from constant stress from witnessing their parent’s constant arguing.
Attorney at law magazine sets it very clearly:
Some children don’t find the separation of the parents the hardest part to cope with, in fact, some find that the most difficult part when it comes to dealing with divorce is the stress that accompanies it.
A lot of stressful, inconvenient situations may drop in their laps such as changing schools, moving or changing homes, and living with one parent who is more high-strung now with more responsibility, and lack of appearances from the other. This stress can greatly affect the child’s mental health.
It’s important to point out that not all children are the same, nor will they react the same way. Depending on their age range, they will find some things more difficult than others, as Rachel Brooks push it :
Little children struggle with new living arrangements, as it is difficult for them to understand why they must now divide their lives and belongings between two homes. They also fear that if their parents no longer love each other, could their parents, possibly, stop loving them?
Middle school-aged children carry the burden of divorce on their shoulders. They often believe they caused it, perhaps by misbehaving or doing something wrong. They convince themselves the divorce is their fault.
Teenagers probably take the hit the hardest. They start angry over the divorce and the effect it has on their lives. A teenager may point fingers and place blame on one parent rather than the other for causing the divorce. They may resent one or both parents for the emotional turmoil brought into the family.
Changes In Their Relationships With Both Parents
One of the key causes for many of these reactions will have to do with changes in a child’s relationship with both parents. On one hand, they will no longer live with one of them, and keeping a normal bond will take some effort on both parts (if we look at it optimistically).
The other parent might be overwhelmed with doing many of the tasks done by two, be the object of guilt and anger for the separation, etc.
Poor Performance In Academics
Professionals agree that poor performance in school is an expected reaction to divorce. However, children might respond better if they do not find themselves blind-sided by their parents’ divorce. So, when you talk to your children, make sure to make it in advance so they can cope with it in the best way possible.
Increase In Risky Behavior
Children of divorced parents show a tendency to indulge in risky behaviors. Shoplifting, consuming drugs or alcohol, and even starting sexual activity early on.
Emotionally Sensitive – with feelings of anger and guilt
The transition from being a family to another can stir up a lot of emotions in children and can even overwhelm them. They might feel loss, anger, confusion, anxiety, and many other emotions. They will need an outlet to process all these new arrangements and information, so many professionals recommend therapy.
Increase In Health Problems
Like any stressful new situation, divorce can carry its toll on a child’s health. Children who have experienced divorce might have a higher perceptibility of sickness and even difficulty sleeping.
The Increase In Mental Health Risks
Brooks paints a very clear picture
Children, from a young age to adolescence are more likely to suffer from mental illness after divorce. Divorce plays a huge role in the increased psychological problems children encounter, regardless of their age, gender, or culture, any child with divorced parents is affected mentally.
No matter how well-intentioned and carefully and lovingly you take on the task of going through a divorce, always keep in mind that it will be easy for no one. Your children will struggle no matter what, but they will acclimate if you take all the necessary measures.
Shock & Confusion
Many children, especially younger children who may have not picked up on your marital issues may feel blindsided by your news that you’re filing for divorce. Particularly if you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse have tried to put brave faces on for your children and your children believed that their family unit was happy and stable.
For example, if you have still been taking family trips together and have been keeping up family traditions such as movie nights or game nights, it’s likely that your kids will feel shocked by your decision.
As your decision may shock your children, ensure to give them ample time to accept the reality that their parents no longer love each other and are filing for a divorce.
Remember that it’s likely that your children believed that their parents would stay happily married as few children grow up imagining their parents getting a divorce.
Hurt & Unloved
There’s a strong likelihood that your kids may feel hurt and unloved. As your kids may feel that if you or your soon-to-be ex-spouse loved them more, that you would choose to stay married. If the reason for your divorce is difficult, such as an affair, it’s even more likely that one or more of your kids may feel hurt and unloved.
Many kids will wonder why they have found themselves in such a difficult scenario. For example, they may feel jealous of their friends whose parents are still together.
Kids often feel fear when they hear that their parents are going through a divorce as when a family goes through a divorce, they are entering uncharted territory. Examples of scenarios that your kids may fear include not seeing one of their parents as often and one of their parents marrying a new individual and starting a new family. Remember to be empathetic and compassionate about your children’s fears as it can be scary to venture into the unknown, especially for children who crave stability.
If most of their friends’ parents are still in happy, committed relationships and marriages, your kids may feel embarrassed that their own family unit has been broken. Even if the reasons for your divorce are positive and for the wellbeing of everyone involved. However, with time, it’s likely that your kids will no longer feel embarrassed about your divorce.
If one of your kids starts spending more time alone, has less of an appetite as usual, or stops socializing with their close friends, it’s well worth carefully monitoring their health and wellbeing as they may be displaying symptoms of depression. As they may be mourning the future life that they assumed that they were going to have. For example, if you have a teenager, they may have imagined visiting both of their parents for Thanksgiving and Christmas when they go off to college or having both of their parents walk them down the aisle one day. Which may no longer be possible.
How To Help Your Kids Feel Emotionally Supported
Validate Their Feelings
Never shut down your kids’ feelings. One of the best things that you can do for your kids in this scenario is to ensure that they feel heard and to validate their feelings.
Ensure That Both You And Your Soon-To-Be Ex-Spouse Spends One On One Time With Each Child
If you both make an effort to show each kid how much you love them, they’ll be less fearful of losing the bond which they share with the two of you. It’s also a great idea to make a weekly plan which will ensure that both yourself and your soon-to-be ex-spouse will spend quality time with each child, on a permanent ongoing basis. As if you can prove to your kids that you’ll both continue to be a stable influence in their lives, they’ll be far more likely to take your divorce well.
Encourage Them To Spend Time With Their Close Friends
Although you may want to keep your kids close at all times, especially during a challenging divorce, it’s also a great idea to find ways for them to spend time with their close friends, who will provide them with another avenue of emotional support. For example, if you take your kids away on a weekend camping trip, you may invite some of their friends to join you. Or you may want to host regular sleepovers at your house.