Divorce will be stressful for adults, but it also has a huge impact on your kids. The psychological effects of divorce on children are significant. It can affect multiple aspects of your kids’ lives, spanning their emotional, behavioral, academic, and even physical lives. All kids are different, but keep an eye on these potential areas of concern with your kids.
Emotional Effects of Divorce
Children experiencing parental divorce often undergo significant emotional stress. The most common feeling is a sense of loss. Your kids will be sad about losing the only family unit they have known. The mourning process can lead to feelings of grief similar to those experienced after the death of a loved one.
Anxiety and fear are common feelings for kids to have. Your kids may feel uncertain about the future, worried about living arrangements, school changes, financial security, or how the divorce might affect their relationships with each parent. These feelings can lead to anxiety problems if not addressed.
Your kids may also suffer from low self-esteem. They might erroneously blame themselves for the divorce, leading to feelings of guilt, shame, and diminished self-worth. These feelings can change the way they see themselves and how they develop.
Divorce can lead to various behavior changes in children as they try to cope with the new situation and emotions. The nature and intensity of these changes can depend on the child’s age, temperament, and how the parents handle the divorce. Here are some of the potential behavioral changes that can occur:
Younger children may start doing things that they hadoutgrown, such as bed-wetting, thumb-sucking, or having tantrums. They may also develop separation anxiety, becoming clingy or overly reliant on one or both parents.
Children of any age might display increased aggression or anger, either directed towards others or themselves. This can manifest as fighting with siblings or peers, or displaying more rebellious behavior in teenagers.
Some children may react to the stress of divorce by withdrawing from social activities or isolating themselves from family and friends. They may also lose interest in activities they once enjoyed.
- Poor School Performance
Your kids might start to have problems in school where their grades will suffer. They may also show decreased interest in going to school or extracurricular activities.
The experience of divorce can have a significant impact on a child’s health, both in the immediate future and potentially even long term effects. It causes stress, anxiety, and sadness, which in turn can contribute to a range of physical health problems. However, it’s essential to note that not all children will experience these effects, and timely interventions can help mitigate many adverse outcomes. Here are some potential health problems that may be associated with divorce:
- Sleep Problems
Your kids may experience difficulty falling asleep, frequent nightmares, or disturbances in their sleep patterns due to stress or anxiety related to the divorce.
- Stress Symptoms
The stress of a divorce can manifest as physical symptoms like headaches, stomachaches, or other unexplained aches and pains. These are termed psychosomatic because they originate from psychological stress but have physical manifestations.
- Changes in Appetite
Stress and emotional upheaval can disrupt a child’s eating habits. Some children may lose their appetite, leading to weight loss, while others may overeat as a way of coping, potentially resulting in weight gain.
- Immune System Problems
Chronic stress can weaken the immune system over time, making a child more susceptible to infections and illnesses.
- Mental Health Issues
The stress and upheaval of divorce can increase the risk of mental health disorders in children, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Substance Abuse
Kids especially may turn to substances such as alcohol, tobacco, or drugs as a way to cope with the emotional stress of a divorce. This can lead to long-term health problems, including addiction.
These potential health issues underscore the importance of providing children with ample support and care during a divorce. A stable, loving environment, open communication, professional therapeutic support, and consistent routines can help mitigate many of these risks and promote healthy coping mechanisms.
Helping Your Kids Cope with the Divorce
Helping your children cope with the process of divorce involves open communication, reassurance, stability, and patience. Here are some strategies you can use to support your kids:
- Maintain Open and Honest Communication
Be honest with your children about what is happening, but do so in a way that is age-appropriate and doesn’t burden them with adult worries or details. Let them know that it’s okay to ask questions and express their feelings.
- Reassure Them of Your Love
Your kids might worry that if their parents can stop loving each other, they could stop loving them too. Reassure your children that your love for them is unconditional and will not change because of the divorce.
- Avoid Blame and Conflict
Avoid blaming your spouse for the divorce in front of your children and minimize their exposure to any conflict. Children should not feel they have to choose sides or carry messages between parents.
- Maintain Routines
Keeping daily and weekly routines as consistent as possible can provide children with a sense of security and normalcy during this time of change.
- Encourage Them to Show Their Feelings
Let your children know that their feelings are valid and it’s okay to feel upset, angry, or confused. Encourage them to talk about their feelings and listen to them without judgment.
- Co-Parent Effectively
If it’s possible and safe in your situation, co-parenting can help children maintain a relationship with both parents. This includes regular contact with both parents, consistent rules across households, and making major decisions together.
Every child is different and will cope with divorce in their own way. What’s most important is that you provide consistent love, reassurance, and support, and stay alert for any signs that your child may be struggling.
Divorce Counseling Help in the Denver Area
Let’s face it – Divorce is going to negatively impact you and your kids. However, with the right support and professional guidance you can reduce that impact and start making things better again.
Let’s figure out how to help you and your kids. Please contact our Client Care Coordinator for your complimentary 20-minute phone consultation today and read more on the Divorce Counseling page on our website.
Self Care Impact Counseling envisions a new age of counseling for adolescents, adults, couples & groups that makes a REAL difference with core values of GROWTH | BALANCE | COMPASSION | INNER HARMONY.