Divorce takes a toll on families, especially children of divorcing parents. A child’s anxiety can be compounded by many things parents don’t control. This includes divorce portrayals in movies, television, music and other popular culture.
Children can also be negatively influenced by friends or family members who have or are also dealing with divorce. The good news is that parents can take positive steps to reduce the psychological effects on their kids and help them thrive.
Divorce affects children differently depending upon age
Child psychologists say the first year after a divorce is the hardest for kids. While ending a marriage creates instability for everyone, kids typically react in accordance with their age group, such as:
- Preschoolers: Most don’t understand why they’re living in two homes. Some may worry if their parents stopped loving each other, will they stop loving them?
- Grade schoolers: Many may worry that the divorce is their fault, that they did something wrong, or their parents can’t deal with their bad behavior.
- Teens: Older kids often get angry about the divorce. They are more likely to blame one parent or resent both for the chaos it has created.
Many of these intense feelings can be manipulated by media, depending upon the situation at home and relationships with each parent.
Steps parents can take to help children adjust
Studies suggest divorce increases the possibilities of mental health problems, behavioral and academic deficiencies and risk-taking among kids. However, parents who understand this and work together can minimize harm by:
- Peaceful co-parenting
- Never putting their kids in the middle of disagreements
- Healthy parent-child relationships
- Consistent discipline
- Keeping a close eye on behavior
- Teaching coping skills and instilling confidence
- Ensuring they feel safe and loved
Know when to seek help
With social media and so many distractions available to children, parents need to be on the same page for prioritizing their kids’ well-being. However, when those influences prove to be too great or parents cannot peacefully coexist, it’s essential to consider outside help, such as therapy or support groups.