Divorce: The Affect on a Child

Children can be seriously affected by divorce.  It is up to parents to protect their children from the effects of their separation, as much as they possibly can.  Understanding how divorce affects children, and what can be done to protect them, should be at the center of every divorce proceeding where children are involved.

Effects of Divorce on Children

Given that half the children in America will, at some point in their lives, witness the breakdown of their parents’ marriage, the affects that those divorces have on children are well documented.  Here are four important facts about children of divorce and how they are affected by their parents’ legal separation.

1. Children need to grieve.

According to expert LaShondra Manning, children “actually grieve” during the divorce process.  The death of the marriage is like the death of a person.  It alters every aspect of the child’s routine, and the rules by which they are living.  Children need to be allowed to grieve, to be sad, and to process.  Parents can take their child to a grief counselor, and become well acquainted with the stages of grieving, to help their children negotiate this element of the divorce process.

Children who do not receive emotional support during grieving can suffer long term emotional damage.  For example, studies of children, six years post parental divorce, found that children were more likely to be “lonely, unhappy, anxious and insecure.”

2. Children need both parents.

Children need both parents to be parents.  LaShondra Manning suggests that navigating how to be good parents after divorce should really begin before the divorce.  She notes that even before the divorce process starts, parents should consider “how are they going to work as a team, to be present for my child.”  Children who do not have this overarching influence from two parents are significantly more at risk for a number of life threatening complications.

On a day to day level, children from split-homes are 50 percent more likely to suffer from basic illnesses, like the common cold, but they are at risk of larger health concerns as well. One study suggests that children, when raised solely by their mother, are 10 times more likely to be beaten or murdered.  They are also more than three times as likely to become the victims of sexual abuse.

3. Children will struggle socially.

Children who come from homes which have been altered by divorce tend to struggle socially. Boys, whose parents are divorced, are more likely to be engaged in bullying, fighting and other aggressive behaviors, than boys who are from two-parent homes.  Children of divorced parents are also more likely to struggle in school.  In fact, children from divorced homes are twice as likely to drop out of school before completing their high school education.

4. Children will blame themselves.

According to Manning, most children blame themselves for their parents’ divorce.  They do not understand what has caused the split, and are racked with guilt over the marriage’s failure.  This leads to depression, drug abuse, and self mutilation.  Children and adolescents whose parents have separated or divorced are more than twice as likely to self-mutilate and attempt suicide than those whose parents stay together.

For more information pertaining to the affects of a child through a divorce call and schedule an appointment with one of our LifeTree counselors at (972) 234-6634

Kathleen Mills

Kathleen is a creative and gifted therapist who has extensive experience in helping children, adolescents, and adults with a variety of issues.