Impact of Divorce on Children
by David A. Morris, LCSW
No matter what the age, divorce introduces a huge change in the life of any child. Watching commitments be broken, love lost, arguments intensify, all the while feeling stuck in the middle. The new life that follows is an adjustment to say the least. Going back and forth from two or more households, feeling the absence of the other parent, adapting to new rules; it’s a challenge most children do not anticipate.
Children respond differently as individuals but there are tendencies that follow the two major age groups. Divorce has a way of accelerating independence in an adolescent. Two new households, two new allegiances often forces an adolescent to start relying on themselves since the constructs they built for their family of trust, loyalty, and commitment have been altered. This painful move forward often comes with a more aggressive, angry form exhibited by defiance and grievance. Instead of trying to get the parents back together, they instead just try to “get the parents back” through opposition, rebellion, or isolation.
Younger children often respond differently to divorce. They see their family as their social network and life. Divorce disrupts this unit for the child, creating instability, insecurity and an unwelcomed newness. They can no longer be with one parent without having to be apart from the other one. Convincing them that a divorce is permanent can be difficult due to their developmental stage and their dream that “someday mom and dad will get back together”. The younger child may then build more parental care into their routine by reverting to their former functions like crying at bedtime, wetting the bed, tantrums and loss of independent skills.
It’s a tough situation and there are no magic answers. But here are a few things to consider which may start restoring your relationship with your children after divorce:
For a parent whom divorces and has a teenager, harness their increased desire for independence. Help point their dedication to self by increasing their responsibilities. Plus promote finding their passion or interest and encourage them to invest in it.
For a parent whom divorces and has a younger child, build a sense of predictable order through routines and structure. Reassure your child in this way and restore their sense of safety and dependency on their new family.
Though the love maybe lost between the ex-partners, provide consist reassurance through words and actions that the love is not lost between the parent and their child. At any age, this is an important assurance for future stability.
counselors understand this difficult separation and can help you with courage to approach your children and restore a healthy relationship with them for the future. Give us a call to take that first step.