Impact of Divorce on Children
Divorce affects children differently, depending on their gender, age and stage of development. All children are affected by divorce in some way. Their world, their security and the stability they have known seem to fall apart when parents divorce. No matter what their age, children appear to have some universal worries when divorce occurs.
They may worry that their parents dont love them anymore. They feel abandoned. They feel like the parent has divorced them too. They feel helpless and powerless to do anything about the situation.
They have a greater need for nurturing. They may become clingy and whiny--or they may become moody and silent. They feel angry. Their anger can be expressed in many ways, from extremely emotional to quiet resentment.
Children often feel they are at fault. They may feel that something they did or said caused a parent to leave. Sometimes children or teens feel they have to "take care of" one or both of their parents. Giving up ones childhood to care for emotionally troubled parents is a widespread characteristic in children of divorce.
They also grieve. Divorce is a major loss in the lives of children and they experience a grieving process very similar to mourning a death. They may also experience conflicts of loyalty.
Acting out behaviors can range from the mild such as sleep difficulties to extremely destructive, such as drug or alcohol abuse, violence or suicide attempts. Other behaviors may include school problems, nervous habits or regressive behaviors such as bedwetting or using comfort items, such as a stuffed toy or blanket.
Although there is the assumption that children are naturally resilient and can get through a divorce with little or no impact on their lives; the truth is that children need strong support systems and individuals in their lives to help them weather their parents divorce.
Reference: GH 6600 "Effects of Divorce on Kids" University of Missouri Extension