How are children affected by divorce? This question isn't as easy to answer as you might think. Every child responds to divorce in different ways, and much of the way they handle it has to do with how the parents deal with it themselves.
How Are Children Affected by Divorce: An Answer
With the divorce rates climbing in the United States, many parents are asking, "How are children affected by divorce?" While it may have become common to hear about friends' parents divorcing, kids still have trouble coping with the end of the family they once knew. The way that they mourn the loss of the home life they are accustomed to living in predicts how affected they will be by the divorce.
Negative Effects of Divorce on Children
If children do not receive the support they need during their parent's divorce, the following negative effects may occur:
- Rebellious behavior
A child may become upset over what is happening to his or her parents. This anger can spill over into school and home, and affect relationships with classmates and friends. You may just think that it's a phase but if allowed to continue, the behavior could become much worse.
- Negative peer groups
When kids don't feel that they are getting the nurturing they need at home, they seek it from other places, such as negative peer groups. These friends will make a child feel accepted and encourage the rebellious behavior he or she may be engaging in. Furthermore, since parents are tied up with their own emotions, they sometimes forget to console their kids. Joining this type of group brings attention to the child, which is what he or she may be wanting at the time of the divorce.
- Lower academic performance
A child may have a difficult time concentrating and focusing when he or she is dealing with anxiety. He or she may become depressed and not care about studying as much as he or she normally did.
To tune out the reality of their parents getting divorced, some children will isolate themselves from parents, other family, and friends. This isolation can make things worse because it gives children time to think about the end of their parent's marriage in ways that are incorrect. They may start blaming themselves and with no one to talk to, it could lead to depression.
Effects of Divorce on Older Children
The following are some effects of divorce on older children, in conjunction with the above, that you should pay attention to because they are cries for support.
- Taking care of younger siblings
An older child will feel as though he or she has to step up and take care of younger siblings because he or she feels that mommy and daddy aren't going to be able to anymore. This can lead to resentment and anger towards parents because he or she feels obligated to be a caretaker.
- Acting better than ever
Older children will sometimes cope with grief by making themselves look and act better than they were before to hide their emotions. They may sound happy and take care of themselves better than they did before they heard the news. The truth is that they don't want others to know how horrible they feel inside.
- Taking care of a parent
If a parent is having a difficult time coping with the divorce, an older child may see that and try to console his or her parent. This reverses the parent-child roles, which means that the older child is not getting the comfort and support he or she needs.
- Drugs and alcohol
Adolescents are starting drugs and alcohol younger, and one of the causes is stress in the home. The issue here is that drugs and alcohol make a child feel numb to the reality of their parent's marriage collapsing but creates a multitude of other problems at home, school and in the community.
- Running away
An older child may be so distraught over the change in family structure that he or she will flee from the home. While this may be temporary, some become involved with gang activity (in pursuit of a new family), which puts them in danger.
Helping Your Children
If you are going through a divorce, don't forget about your kids. They need you right now more than you think. If they are already starting to act out, don't worry, you can still help them. Give your kids a hug, explain to them what is going on and let them talk about how they feel. Don't belittle them - their sadness, fear and rage need to be heard.