The Effect of Divorce on Children

Divorce is a common happenstance in today’s world, something that effects 50% of children across America. While it can happen to half of the children population, it is not an easy thing for young children and adolescents to deal with. Divorce can cause many long term, psychological issues for children. This phenomenon also occurs with non-married couples who have children together and then separate.

If you or someone you know is going through a divorce or separation and has children with their spouse, make sure to keep in mind signs of struggle for children with split parents. Children and teens may exhibit new or alarming behavior during their parents’ divorce. After all, they are losing the comfort or familiarity that having both parents in one home gave them. It can lead children to believe that they may be part of the cause of the divorce or feel that a parent is leaving them specifically. This can lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression or lack of self-worth.

While some children or teens can “bounce back” to what they were before the divorce, it can still cause lasting effects. Divorced or separated parents should consider putting their children into counseling to work through their feelings about their parents’ split.  Many young children tend towards internalizing their feelings and can think that their parents left because of them or that they are not loved by the parent that “left” (i.e. the parent that does not live with them any longer.) Teenagers on the other hand, tend to put blame on their parents for the issues brought on by divorce and can even resent one or both parents. This can lead towards more turmoil within the family.

Divorce is also linked with lower academic performance in children and teens, as well as higher truancy and drop out rates. Other behavioral issues that may show up are impulsive behaviors, fighting with peers, and delinquency. Often these are behaviors that appear because they want to feel some sense of control or seek attention that they may not be receiving at home.

These childhood and adolescent issues can transpire towards their adulthood as well. Many children of divorce face relationship problems in the future because they may not have had a solid example of a relationship in their life. They may also have separation or trust issues due to feelings of perceived abandonment by a parent.

Researchers and mental health professionals suggest getting therapy for children and the parents involved in a divorce. It is important to form positive co-parenting efforts between the divorced couple in order to avoid negative impact on the children. They also recommend leaving the child out of arguments between parents, maintaining the same discipline aspects between both households, and forming a positive, empowering relationship with each child.

Many children face the struggle of divorce or of separation with their parents across America. While it may feel commonplace, it is something that can be helped with putting positive behaviors in place to make the children feel loved and heard.

Written by Emma, Undergrad Intern 2021

If you would like to speak to a professional counselor or psychologist about this and are in the Chicago area, please feel free to contact Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc. at 708-633-8000. We are located at 6819 West 167th Street in Tinley Park, Illinois 60477

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