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.
Long-term Impact of Divorce on Children
The relationship between parent and child is the closest bond that children have in their growing up years. The ways in which parents help their children cope with divorce can reshape their ideas of the world and relationships with other people. Children learn how to relate to others by observing the relationship between their parents. Witnessing the breakdown of their parents’ marriage can be deeply destabilising for children. Children can carry the effects of divorce with them as they grow up, and some of these effects may only become apparent when the children are older. Therefore, it is vital that you step in early to support your children and seek professional support early if your children need it.
- May have difficulties forming long lasting friendships or relationships with others.
- May have difficulties resolving conflict or arguments with others.
- May have poor relationships with you, the other parent, their peers, future romantic partners, and authority figures.
- May experience:
- Lowered self-esteem;
- Sense of loss of control; and
- Deep fear of abandonment.
- Higher likelihood of developing mood and anxiety disorders.
- More severe impact when child is repeatedly exposed to conflicts, or is caught in the centre of conflicts.
- Child may experience increased feelings of guilt, shame, helplessness, and low self-worth.
- May experience more anger outbursts, tantrums or crying.
- Become quieter or withdrawn from friends and family.
- Poorer school performance.
- More impulsive.
- Engage in risky behaviours such as truancy, smoking, substance use, or early sexual activity.
What You Can Do to Support Your Child
Studies show that the only group of children whose outcomes improve after divorce are those who already experience very frequent and high levels of conflict between their parents before the divorce. Divorce will have some impact on children, but most are able to withstand or recover quickly from such difficult events. With a supportive family, they develop resilience to this life event and can grow well mentally and emotionally. However, when divorce proceedings drag on, or when the relationship between the parents continues to be strained, the effects of the divorce on the child can be very serious. Children from divorced families may have a higher chance of developing mental health issues, as compared to children from non-divorced families. If you have made a decision to divorce, it is best for your children if it can be done with the least amount of conflict between you and the other parent. It would be best to engage in cooperative co-parenting to help reduce the short and long-term effects of divorce on your children.
You may wish to use these other resources:
- Tips on helping your child cope
- Mandatory Co-Parenting Programme to better understand the needs of your children
- Seek counselling support for your child
- Children of Divorce Intervention Programme (CODIP) to help your children learn to cope with their feelings about the divorce.
Pause and Reflect
What is my child going through now?
Am I exposing my child to conflicts? Are these conflicts causing distress to my child?
What can I do to support my child through the process?
Will my child benefit from counselling?
Signs to Seek Help for Your Child