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.
9-12 years old (Upper Primary School-Aged Children)
At this age, pre-teens are usually capable of expressing how they feel and are becoming more independent. While your pre-teen may focus more on their friends or studies (especially if they are preparing for major examinations), they still require the other parent’s and your guidance and emotional support, as well as that of other significant adult figures in their lives. Even if they understand that divorce is an issue between the adults, they may view the other parent’s and your divorce as betrayal and still become angry with the both of you.
Your pre-teen may attempt to help you and the other parent solve your problems, and you may be tempted to unload your emotional burden on them. However, they should not be shouldered with this responsibility as this can impact them negatively.
- Does poorly in school and studies.
- Take sides with you or the other parent and blames or rejects the other.
- May offer to care for the more “vulnerable” parent.
- Experiences low self-esteem, loneliness, and anger.
- Feels shame or embarrassment about the divorce.
- May begin to spend more time with friends than with family.
- Assure your pre-teen that you and the other parent will still love them and will remain their parents.
- Keep them out of any conflicts between you and the other parent, so that they do not feel a need to take sides.
- Work with your pre-teen's teachers and ask them to let you know if they notice changes in them.
- Be in touch with what is going on in your pre-teen's life (e.g. school exams, peer relationships, and hobbies) and support them.
- Allow your pre-teen to spend time with the other parent and other significant family members.
- Do not rely on your pre-teen to provide you with emotional and psychological support. If you need someone to talk to, you may consider approaching your friends or getting professional help.
- Using your pre-teen to pass messages to the other parent. This involves your pre-teen unnecessarily in matters that may not concern them, and can add stress to them. Your pre-teen may also feel used.
- Using your pre-teen as a “spy” to get information about the other parent. Your pre-teen 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 pre-teen and the other parent, or your pre-teen and you as well.
- Bad-mouthing the other parent. It puts them in an awful position to feel a need to take sides between you and the other parent.
- Comparing your pre-teen to the other parent. E.g. “You are just like your mother”. Pre-teens hear criticisms of the other parent as criticisms of themselves.
Your pre-teen may have strong and intense feelings and might display concerning behaviours. If you notice your pre-teen experiencing a great deal of distress, you may wish to use these resources to help your pre-teen cope or seek counselling support for your pre-teen.
5-8 years old (Kindergarten & Lower Primary School-Aged Children)
13-18 years old (Secondary School and Above)