Getting a Divorce: 10 Psychological Effects of Divorce on Children
The process of getting divorced is an especially difficult time for two people involved in the marriage, but what happens when there are kids involved too? Children of any age will be affected by divorce, and every child handles divorce differently. The way they handle the divorce is party a result of their personality. However, they will also be influenced by the way the family handles the divorce and how they communicate about the divorce with the child.
It is important for parents to understand some of the signs to look for that can indicate that their child is struggling with the concept of the parents’ divorce. Below are ten different effects of divorce on children:
1. Self blame
When children don’t understand why the divorce is happening, they often land on the possibility that it could be their own fault. Children between the ages of six and twelve tend to feel especially guilty as a result of the divorce, as they are still in the stage of egocentrism.
2. Letting it overwhelm their thoughts
Children, especially those who think that the divorce is directly their fault, may also take on the weight and responsibility of trying to get their parents back together, not understanding that there are other factors at work in the whole situation. This is a big responsibility to take on, especially considering the task is essentially not accomplishable. Children may spend significant amounts of time thinking, considering, obsessing, and planning to see how they can make their parents get back together.
3. Being too independent
Children of divorce may feel they can’t depend on their parents anymore, and may internalize that, depending only on themselves as a result. This results in them never asking for help or resources when they need them, and not letting anybody know when they are struggling. They ultimately make their own life a lot harder because they reject the support system they are entitled to.
4. Health problems
If the child is not able to effectively continue with the basic pillars of human health, they may start to develop health problems. For instance, if the child is not sleeping properly for worrying about the divorce, or if they are not eating properly. As well, it can take a huge toll on their mental health, which is less visible but just as dangerous. Statistically, kids from families of divorce have a higher risk of getting sick.
Anxiety is one of the possible mental health effects of divorce on children. If the child feels that the rug has been pulled out from under them, so to speak, they may be anxious that something like this could happen again. They may also worry about their new living arrangements and schedules, and other changes that come their way as a result of the divorce.
6. Withdrawal from social interaction
Possibly as a result of anxiety, depression, or a general feeling of giving up on people, children may disassociate from social interaction, including family, friends, schoolmates, and others. This can also be a result of feeling alone in the world – like they’re the one weirdo whose parents are getting divorced. Kids may feel they can no longer relate to others because they are now different.
7. Increased emotional sensitivity
As you may have guessed, the psychological effects of divorce on children may make their emotions more volatile. The divorce may cause children to be more sensitive over things that are seemingly not a big deal. This comes as a result of being overwhelmed by the situation. Something small may seem like a big deal because so much of their emotional energy is already being used up.
8. Dropping Grades
For a number of reasons, children whose parents have divorced tend to have lower grades. For example, the child may be thinking or worrying about the divorce instead of studying or paying attention in class. Alternatively, the child may be struggling with depression or anxiety that takes away their motivation to complete their work.
Some children will feel anger about the situation, or may use anger as a way to express the feelings of guilt, confusion, hurt, and sadness. They may lash out, using this emotion to help them cope with all of the negative feelings they are having.
Their anger potentially leads to destructive behaviour, which can present in a huge number of different ways, and can be a long lasting effect of divorce as well. Some of the ways kids and teens deal with divorce is through actions that make them feel powerful, like theft or vandalism, substance abuse, or even self harm.
10. Complete disassociation with the concept of marriage and/or family
Children may also view a divorce as a sign that this bond of family, of marriage, or both is a total sham. If it can be broken up that easily, was it ever even real? This can be a long-lasting effect of divorce, and cause them to struggle in their future relationships as a result.