Mental Podcast Show

Children and Divorce

As a marriage dissolves, many parents ask whether they should stay together for the kids. Other parents find divorce is their only option.

Tragic scene of family divorce and child custody dispute. Angry father leaving the house with son. Concept of husband and wife break up. Problems in relationship. Flat vector cartoon illustration

In addition, parents worry about their living situation’s future and the custody arrangement’s uncertainty. Parents also worry about how the children will adjust to the divorce.

The psychological effects of divorce on children depend on the individual child. While divorce is stressful for all children, some rebound faster than others.

The first year of divorce is usually the most difficult for parents and children. Studies show that children struggle the most during the first year or two after the divorce and experience distress, anger, anxiety, and disbelief.

Some children get used to changes in their daily routines and grow comfortable with their new living arrangements. Others never seem to go back to normal. Children who never fully adjust may experience ongoing, even lifelong, mental health problems after their parents’ divorce.

The fact is that divorce creates emotional turmoil for the entire family. Still, the situation can be scary, confusing, and frustrating for kids. For example, young children often struggle to understand why they must go between two homes. Even worse, they may believe that their parents no longer love them.

One common misconception that children have is that divorce is their fault. As a result, they may fear misbehaving or assume they did something wrong, causing their parents to divorce. According to Piaget, children go through stages of cognitive development. What this means is that youngsters think in very concrete ways. Therefore, it is essential that divorcing parents explain to their children that the divorce has nothing to do with anything they did and that mommy and daddy still love them.

At a tumultuous time, regardless of parental problems, teenagers may become quite angry about divorce and the changes it creates. They may blame one parent for the dissolution of the marriage, or they may resent one or both parents for the upheaval in the family.

Of course, each situation is unique. For example, a child may feel relieved by the separation in extreme circumstances if a divorce means fewer arguments and less stress. But another stressor that can present itself is parents refusing to reach accommodation for the sake of the children and teenagers. That stressor is parental alienation. The following blog post will discuss parental alienation.

Divorce-Related Stress:

Divorce usually means children lose daily contact with one parent, most often the father. Decreased communication affects the parent-child bond. Researchers have found many children feel less close to their fathers after divorce. Divorce affects a child’s relationship with the custodial parent, most often mothers. In addition, primary caregivers often report higher stress levels associated with single parenting.

For some children, parental separation isn’t the most challenging part. Instead, the accompanying stressors make divorce the most difficult. Changing schools, moving to a new home, and living with a single parent who feels a little more frazzled are just a few of the additional stressors that make divorce difficult.

Financial hardships are also frequent after divorce. Many families must move to smaller homes or change neighborhoods, often needing more material resources.

Mental Health Problems

Divorce may increase the risk of mental health problems in children and adolescents. Regardless of age, gender, and culture, children of divorced parents experience increased psychological problems.

Divorce often triggers an adverse change in behavior in children that sometimes resolves within a few months. However, there is evidence that depression and anxiety rates are higher in children from divorced parents. The emotional problems of kids whose parents divorce can show behavior problems, including conduct disorders, delinquency, and impulsive behavior, more than kids from two-parent families. Besides increased behavior problems, children may share more conflict with peers after a divorce.

Parents need to help kids adjust to the divorce situation. For example, adults who experienced divorce during childhood may have more relationship difficulties. In addition, parents play a significant role in how children adjust to a divorce.

Seek Professional Help

Intense conflict between parents increases children’s distress. Overt hostility causes behavior problems in children. But minor tension may increase a child’s distress. People who struggle to co-parent with their ex-spouse seek professional help.

Parents Must Avoid Putting Kids in the Middle. Asking kids to choose which parent they like best or messages to other parents isn’t appropriate. Kids caught in the middle are more likely to experience depression and anxiety. Positive communication, parental warmth, and low levels of conflict help children adjust to divorce better. In addition, a healthy parent-child relationship helps kids develop higher self-esteem and better academic performance following divorce.

Finally, when parents pay close attention to what teens are doing and who they spend their time with, adolescents are less likely to exhibit behavior problems following a divorce. That means a reduced chance of using substances and fewer academic problems.

Help is available. Contact Dr. Schwartz at:  dransphd@aol.com

 

The post Children and Divorce appeared first on DocTalk, Explorations in Psychotherapy.

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