How divorce affects children & what parents can do about it

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Divorce rates are still quite high these days. According to statistics from the USA, about 30% of children in the country are brought up in a single-parent family. In the process of marriage dissolution, spouses overflowing with negative emotions can forget about the third party of the divorce – their child. No matter what age a child is, experiencing parents’ divorce is almost always challenging. For a child, divorce is not limited by legal procedure. The divorce begins with the parental quarrels and ends with the moment of separation. And the shorter this path is, the easier it will be for the child to overcome it.

Do not think that the child is too little, so he or she does not understand what is happening in the family. If children have been involuntary spectators of all the quarrels and showdowns between the parents, then by the time of the actual divorce, they are aware of what’s going on.
The parents should tell the child they decided to divorce in such a way that the child can independently draw conclusions for themselves, and reassure them that the divorce has nothing to do with them.

It is better if parents come together to talk about their intention to divorce. Distortions and innuendos scare children and they could begin to suspect that something terrible is happening, increasing the emotional tension. Although parental divorce affects children in different ways and it is a stressful experience for them, it is not a life sentence. The child will still be able to prosper in the future and build their own relationships.

Features of experiencing a divorce, depending on the age of the child

Babies and Toddlers
Babies and toddlers have complete dependency on their parents, and they cannot process complex situations or understand their feelings. A toddler will think about what happens in a self centred way, and may ask ‘who will look after me?’ The most important thing to do for this age group is to remain consistent in their routines to promote feelings of stability. Creating a nurturing environment and keep arguments or noise away from the children.

Preschoolers and Primary School Children
This age group may show signs of distress such as excessive tearfulness, increased clinginess and a refusal to play with other children. A daily routine (play, bath and bed) will work well to reassure them that things are ‘normal’ and keep answers to any questions factual and short, for example which parent is moving out and how often they will see them.

Separate your relationship with each other from the relationship to the child. You have ceased to be a husband and wife, but you have not ceased to be parents. The child must clearly understand how his or her relationship with the both custodial and non-custodial parent will develop in the future. Regardless of age, the child wants to know that even after a divorce, parents still love him, and he can always count on their help and support.

Teenagers and College Students
Children of this age have a greater capacity to understand marital relationships but they are still children who’s world is breaking, so kindness, sensitivity and truth are key. Depending on the circumstances of the breakup, you can shield them from knowing every harsh detail, but they will understand more than you think, so don’t try to lie or cover up the situation. They need to know that both parents are still there for them – at this age they are naturally seeking relationships outside of the family, friends are increasingly important so it can be harder to reach your children emotionally but they still crave the connection. If the child pushes you away, you need to keep trying and be there. Don’t ever try to use the child as a messenger to communicate between you. It isn’t fair to the child.

It is hard for children to experience parental divorce, but supporting them, demonstrating love and providing a nurturing environment will help.

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