Understanding the Effects of Divorce on Children
Understanding how your child may react and feel can help you better support them. Read on to find out what you can do to help your child.
3-4 years old (Pre-Nursery & Nursery)
Pre-schoolers are too young to understand the concept of divorce. In their minds, they are prone to believe that their actions are responsible for causing the divorce. Additionally, your child’s brain is still rapidly developing at this stage. Being exposed to conflict and stressors can severely impact their brain development. Keep conflict out of their sight and attend to their needs holistically.
- Becomes clingier and throws more tantrums by crying, screaming, or kicking.
- Complains of physical pains such as headaches and stomach-aches.
- Asks the same questions about the family changes repeatedly.
- Believes that they are the main cause of the divorce.
- Fears that they will be abandoned by one or both parents.
- Believes that parents will remain together if they behave better.
- Withdraws from people more than usual.
- Reassure your child that both parents love them no matter and help your child feel more assured by sharing the changes.
- Use children’s books about divorce to help your child understand the concept of divorce, and assure them that their feelings and concerns are normal.
- Explain to your child gently in simple words that they are not the reason for the divorce. For example, you may wish to say: “Daddy and mummy have problems that cannot be solved so we are not going to live together anymore. It is not because of you; it is not your fault.”
- Keep your child’s routines and caregivers consistent and as similar to how they were pre-divorce as much as possible.
- Over-compensating for the divorce by buying excessive gifts for your child. This can be misunderstood by your child and cause unintended effects. Do not shower your child with material gifts in an effort to compete with the other parent as well.
- Using your child to pass messages to your spouse. This involves your child unnecessarily in matters that may not concern them and can add stress to them. Your child may also feel used.
- Using your child as a “spy” to get information about the other parent. Your child may feel torn having to decide whether to divulge details about the other parent. Being in this position may cause strains in the relationship between your child and the other parent, or your child and you as well.
- Bad-mouthing your spouse. This will make your child feel like you are criticising part of who they are. It puts them in an awful position to feel a need to take sides between you and the other parent. Remind your family members who are close to your child to avoid bad-mouthing the other parent too.
While it is common for pre-schoolers to complain about physical discomforts often, your child’s complaints about physical aches and pains may also be related to the divorce. If symptoms persist, you should get this checked by a healthcare professional.
0-2 years old (Infants & Toddlers)
5-8 years old (Kindergarten & Lower Primary School-Aged Children)