Divorce is difficult for everyone involved, but it can be especially tough on young children. The dissolution of a family unit can have several psychological effects on kids, some of which may be long-lasting. If you’re going through a divorce, it’s important to be aware of these potential consequences and take steps to mitigate them as much as possible.
Here are five of the most common psychological effects of divorce on young children and how to help them cope:
1. The Feeling of Abandonment
One of the most significant psychological effects of divorce is the feeling of abandonment due to the loss of a parental figure. When parents split up, kids can feel like they’ve lost a part of themselves, and their world has been turned upside down. They may struggle with feelings of abandonment, betrayal and confusion.
A divorce lawyer in Maryland notes that young kids may act out as a way to cope with their feelings. They may become clingy, have trouble sleeping, or experience changes in appetite. The best way to help your child through this tough time is to:
- Be there for them
- Spend extra time with them
- Answer their questions honestly
- Let them know that you love them no matter what
2. Depression and Anxiety
Young kids who go through a divorce can start to experience depression and anxiety. This is because their family life has changed, and they may not have the same security that they once did. Kids who are depressed or anxious may act out more at home or school, have problems sleeping, and lose interest in activities they used to enjoy.
Divorce can also be a very confusing time for kids. They may see their parents behaving in ways that are different from what they’re used to, such as yelling or not spending time together. This can be very scary for young children. To help your kids cope with the anxiety, you can:
- Encourage them to talk about their feelings and what they’re experiencing
- Make sure they have a stable routine with plenty of family time
- Help them stay connected to their extended family and friends
- Ensure they get enough exercise and fresh air
- Provide healthy meals and snacks
3. Regression in Behavior
One of the most common psychological effects of divorce on young children is a regression in behavior. This means that the child may start behaving in a way that is more characteristic of a younger age than their current age. They may become clingier to parents or other family members, have more temper tantrums, or exhibit signs of insecurity.
Often, this regression is a way for the child to express their feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. It can be a normal and healthy part of the divorce process for young children. It is important for parents to be aware of this behavior and to try to provide as much stability as possible for their children during this time. Help them cope by:
- Giving them plenty of reassurance and love
- Helping them understand what is happening and why
- Helping them change any negative behaviors
- Seeking out support for yourself and your child
4. Difficulty with School Work
Studies have shown that academic performance declines after a parental divorce in kids of all ages. This may be due to the fact that children of divorced parents often have to deal with more stress and anxiety than those from intact families. They’re also more likely to experience behavior problems at school.
Take these steps to help your child overcome these challenges:
- Keep an eye on your child’s school performance after a divorce
- Talk to their teachers if you notice any changes
- Be there for your child and provide support to help them overcome any difficulties they’re having
- If your child is struggling academically, take advantage of the resources and programs available to help
5. Lowered Self-esteem
When parents get divorced, children often feel like they are to blame. This can lead to feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, and worthlessness, leading to low self-esteem. Children from divorced homes may also struggle with trust issues. It can be difficult for them to trust people, especially adults, after seeing their parents go through a divorce.
It’s sad to see children suffer because of something that is often beyond their control. If you are a parent going through a divorce:
- Remember that your children are watching and listening to everything
- Be respectful of each other in front of your kids
- Don’t badmouth the other parent
- Ensure they feel loved and supported during this difficult time
- Reassure your children that the divorce is not their fault
Help Your Kids Adjust
With the proper support, parents can help minimize or avoid the negative outcomes of divorce on their children. Remember that your responsibility as a parent doesn’t end when your marriage does. By taking the right steps early on, you can help your young kids develop the resilience they need to cope with the challenges ahead.