How Children Are Affected By Divorce, And What Parents Can Do To Help.

For many parents, it is gut-wrenching when your child is hurting and you’re unable to do anything to end her/his suffering. You feel helpless, and sometimes hopeless, in these situations. And you may also feel guilty, especially if the pain that your child is experiencing is related to the divorce between you and your partner. The whole family is affected by divorce, but most especially children. I’ll highlight two of the ways that children are impacted today, and what you can do to help your child understand and heal from this life-altering transition.

Frequently, it is the father who moves out of the home during the divorcing process. This typically decreases or restricts the contact between dad and the children, and, of course, affects their ability to be/feel connected. Also, due to higher levels of stress that accompany single parenting, which is often the role that the mother takes on, the relationship between the children and their mom can become strained.

Each of those factors can result in your child feeling emotionally distant from both parents, which may be radically different from how your child previously experienced the family when you and your spouse were together. This is likely contributing to the loneliness and sorrow that your child is experiencing, and could affect her/his social functioning and academic performance. Children of divorce report more conflict with peers; they also exhibit impulse behaviors and display delinquency. Further, studies show that kids of divorce have higher truancy and dropout rates, and lower scores on tests.

As if it is not excruciating enough to watch your child suffer (because, remember, behavior is an expression of the problem, not the problem, so if your child is beginning to fail tests, engage in risky behavior, or reject your authority, she/he is likely in pain about the transition), you, too, are hurting, and may be conducting yourself in ways that are uncharacteristic (for example, yelling more, being less patient or preoccupied by the many changes that you, too, are undergoing).

It is very tempting to think, “If my kid wasn’t acting like this, then I wouldn’t have to yell so much!”, but, remember, everyone is distressed, yet displaying the pain to one another in different ways, and your children will never be okay unless they feel comforted and understood by you.

Here are two practices that you can start today, which will help your child to feel cared for by you, and which will reduce the likelihood of serious symptoms arising. First, help your child to feel safe and loved. Often times, children can be feeling anxious about, or fearful of, abandonment after divorce. Talking to your child, every day, during which you are curious and warm with her/him about fears, needs, and perceptions, can help your child to feel emotionally safe and secure, which will decrease the risk of mental health experiences and rejection of your authority.

Second, be consistent when disciplining your children. Be sure to create age-appropriate rules, hold your children accountable to those expectations, and implement pre-established consequences that are not only suitable for the offense, but also offer teachable moments.

If you need more assistance or guidance, call me to schedule a family therapy appointment. I’ll partner with you and your family to help you navigate these troubled waters. 

Speak Your Mind


560 Van Reed Road, Suite 206
Wyomissing, PA. 19610
(610) 570-1133

Have Questions?
Send a Message!