The effects of divorce can be difficult for all parties involved, but the effects of divorce on children may be the most long-lasting. From lashing out to wetting the bed, it’s important that parents know the possible emotional and physical effects so that changes can be dealt with as they occur in a child’s physical or emotional state.
Physical Changes: There are many ways that divorce and separation may affect a child physically, such as changes in eating or sleeping. Parents may find that their child may be unable to sleep, taking a long time to fall asleep or waking many times during the night. Nightmares may begin, as well as wetting the bed. If these have never been issues before, it’s important that parents address them in a positive manner. First and foremost, a child should never be disciplined for waking at night or bedwetting. Parents should know that these issues are most likely caused by new insecurities or stress brought on by the divorce. Reassurance and comfort is important during this time, as well as letting the child know that he or she is safe and loved. Creating a calm environment that is as free of stress as possible, as well as keeping the child on a routine, will help add a sense of security and stability to his or her life.
Emotional Changes: Divorce and separation may very well affect a child’s emotional state. A child of divorce may withdraw from family or lash out with negative behavior or anger. Acting out at school or home may become more common, and anger may become the child’s way of dealing with obstacles. First, parents should know that their child has a right to be angry, and it is important for parents to let him or her know this. During this time, teaching a child different ways to deal with his or her anger is important. Journaling, extracurricular activities, and using art to express emotion are all positive alternatives to acting out. If parents feel that their child’s behavior is a danger, or is not something they can handle alone, seeking professional help is important. Having a child discuss his or her feelings with a therapist, minister, etc. helps add a neutral third party perspective to the issue.
A Parent’s Role: A parent’s job is to make sure that the transition for their child to a single-parent household is as smooth as possible. Open communication between parent and child, as well as between both parents, will help assure that the child adjusts well to the change. Parents should keep adult matters between adults, making sure to speak to each other privately about things such as child support, court matters, etc. Parents should never speak in a negative way about each other to the child, or make the child believe the other parent doesn’t love him or her. It is important to always remember that it is the parents who are divorcing, not the child.
Every child is different. A child may display all or none of these changes, or may be affected in a different way altogether. Parents should deal with any effects that the divorce or separation may have on their child in a positive manner as they occur and help their child adjust more easily to this difficult life change.
Are you and your spouse contemplating a divorce but feel there may be a way back? It may not be too late to reconcile!