Children are affected in many ways by divorce-concerns for their role in the issues between their parents, plans to be with parents in a scheduled way, celebrations and traditions that change, anxiety when there are stressors with parents in areas of finance, distressed feelings, and loss of the original family unit. Today’s focus provides some information which the reader may be aware yet also possibly recognition if their child or children are showing signs of irritability, loss of interest in things they enjoyed, anxiety, depression, sleep concerns, or problems in school, help may be needed for learning what their child or children are experiencing in their life.
One out of every two marriages today ends in divorce and many divorcing families include children. Parents who are getting a divorce are frequently worried about the effect the divorce will have on their children. During this difficult period, parents may be preoccupied with their own problems, but continue to be the most important people in their children’s lives.
While parents may be devastated or relieved by the divorce, children are invariably frightened and confused by the threat to their security. Some parents feel so hurt or overwhelmed by the divorce that they may turn to the child for comfort or direction. Divorce can be misinterpreted by children unless parents tell them what is happening, how they are involved and not involved and what will happen to them.
Children often believe they have caused the conflict between their mother and father. Many children assume the responsibility for bringing their parents back together, sometimes by sacrificing themselves. Vulnerability to both physical and mental illnesses can originate in the traumatic loss of one or both parents through divorce. With care and attention, however, a family’s strengths can be mobilized during a divorce, and children can be helped to deal constructively with the resolution of parental conflict.
Talking to children about a divorce is difficult. The following tips can help both the child and parents with the challenge and stress of these conversations:
- Do not keep it a secret or wait until the last minute.
- Tell your child together.
- Keep things simple and straight-forward.
- Tell them the divorce is not their fault.
- Admit that this will be sad and upsetting for everyone.
- Reassure your child that you both still love them and will always be their parents.
- Do not discuss each other’s faults or problems with the child.
Parents should be alert to signs of distress in their child or children. Young children may react to divorce by becoming more aggressive and uncooperative or withdrawing. Older children may feel deep sadness and loss. Their schoolwork may suffer and behavior problems are common. As teenagers and adults, children of divorce can have trouble with their own relationships and experience problems with self-esteem.
Children will do best if they know that their mother and father will still be their parents and remain involved with them even though the marriage is ending and the parents won’t live together. Long custody disputes or pressure on a child to “choose” sides can be particularly harmful for the youngster and can add to the damage of the divorce. Research shows that children do best when parents can cooperate on behalf of the child.
Parents’ ongoing commitment to the child’s well-being is vital. If a child shows signs of distress, the family doctor or pediatrician can refer the parents to a mental health professional, such as a Licensed Professional Counselor, Psychologist, or Social Worker, for evaluation and treatment. In addition, the mental health professional can meet with the parents to help them learn how to make the strain of the divorce easier on the entire family. Psychotherapy for the children of a divorce, and the divorcing parents, can be helpful.
If your child or children, or you know of a family member or friend who may be dealing with issues of divorce affecting their children, you may contact the office at (843) 652-5532 to discuss your situation with the counselor for determining whether the child or teen may been counseling. You can also email Kathy L. Fortner, EdS, LPC, NCC at firstname.lastname@example.org for inquiry.