Divorce And My Child’s Mental Health



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A long time ago, conspiracies started to spread that if parents are sad, the kids are sad too, which is why they have concluded that divorce does help both children and parents. It means that what’s best for mom or dad is also good for the kids. That is just an assumption. In reality, we know from tremendous amounts of research on divorce that children and their mental health suffer when parents split up.

Most kids think that their parents must work through any problem that they encounter. They see their parents as all strong and mighty – powerful enough to provide their every need. There is no problem in the world that parents cannot handle. Most children think that divorce or separation destroys their safety and the very foundation of their security, comfort, and well-being.

Having a conversation with children about divorce may not only reduce any anxiety they may be experiencing, but can also help them prepare, both cognitively and emotionally, for the changes ahead. — Katelyn Alcamo, LCMFT

Studies On Divorce And Children

While every child loses security and family bonds, a child’s damaged emotional and mental health will possibly have more visible outcomes. Decades of research continue to show the negative effects of separation and divorce on children. And though sometimes it doesn’t mean that your child will experience these effects, it nevertheless increases the risk.

  • Children with divorced parents have a higher likelihood of being imprisoned for juvenile delinquency.
  • Children with divorced parents don’t make it well academically. They usually have low grades and don’t make it through high school.
  • They are more likely to have difficulty making a life of their own, as income of the custodial parent decreases considerably.
  • Children and teens from broken homes have a higher likelihood of engaging and drug and alcohol abuse.
  • Kids with divorced or separated parents are five times more susceptible to experiencing mental or physical illness, and their recovery is relatively slower.
  • The emotional scars from the past will haunt these children up until adulthood (some even after they have married).

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It is important to note that these findings are not universal to all children whose parents are divorced. However, we have now pointed out that these children do suffer from lasting emotional trauma. To know more about this mental condition, check out BetterHelp.

Even if the reasons for the divorce are plainly evident, upon hearing that you are divorcing, your kids will have to grieve the loss of what could have been: the hope that their parents would always be together and the family unit would remain intact. — Kathy Hardie-Williams, MEd, MS, NCC, LPC, LMFT

When Parents Rebuild, Children Feel Abandoned 

Most parents, while going through and after a divorce, yearn for their own needs to be met – to be happy again and meet someone new. But while parents fix their lives separately, children are faced with confusion and sadness for their parents’ divorce. They feel abandoned and frustrated as their parents move on to find better relationships.

This situation becomes more magnified when one of the parents decides to marry someone else. Children feel that the new setup complicates the situation even more, especially if the new spouse has children of his own, as he will have instant stepbrothers or stepsisters. This then will cause other emotions like jealousy, anger, and alienation. Additionally, children almost always feel that they have an active and dynamic family life, and after a divorce, they find themselves as lost as ever. It’s like their grieving never ceases. Full recovery, research reveals, is close to impossible for children suffering from the divorce of their parents. The whole trauma is too much to handle.


No Easy Answers

Sometimes, parents find an easy way out, and as this happens, children’s emotional damage will be with them for more than 30 years. While parents assume that their kids are strong and resilient, the trauma of divorce is a lot to put on their plate. On the contrary, some children are more resilient than others and are better able to cope with their daily stresses and challenges. They may show some violent or unpleasant behavioral patterns during the divorce process, but they can move past the hurt of losing their parents’ relationship. So resilience is something that children can or can’t have.

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You don’t need to diagnose your child, but it is helpful to explore the specific symptoms that may be relevant to your child’s struggle. — Shainna Ali Ph.D., LMHC

In light of all the facts laid out about marriages heading for separation or divorce and that some of these problems can be saved, parents should probably take a step back before deciding to pursue the process. It’s not easy at all for the kids, but not easy for the parents as well. But if you think divorce is a solution, it might be difficult for your kids’ mental health. They will think of this process as the enemy, the thing that has destroyed their precious family. Divorce should not be taken lightly for either parent. It should be thought of again and again. It doesn’t only damage the parents’ marriage bond, but it scars the children’s lives forever.