The Effects Of Divorce On Children Over Time

Long Term Effects of Divorce on Children

Divorce will take a toll on the adults and children who are touched by the breakup of a marriage.  Children are at most risk for suffering from long term effects of divorce because they don’t have the support and resources that are usually available to adults. 

The divorce rate in the U.S. hovers around 50%.  This means that 50% of marriages that are started this year will end in divorce at some point in the life of the spouses.

The changes in technological advancements, travel and cultural norms have hit the institution of marriage the hardest.  In a 2005 European convention it was declared that out of every 10 households that were currently married 8 were divorced at one time.  These rates are higher than those in the U.S. 

The long term effects of divorce on children who don’t receive emotional and psychological support are varied from mental health issues, ability to bond with another person later in life, a decline in the ability to trust another person, failure of their own marriage and emotional instability.

Some of the long term effects suffered by children include bullying, juvenile delinquency, teen pregnancy, lack of trust and respect, emotionally withdrawn and fear of abandonment.    They also suffer from an inability to maintain long-term committed relationships themselves, a tendency to develop abusive behavior, prone to resorting to crime, tend to have a lack of respect for other people and lack of family values.

Many of these long-term effects are alleviated when the children of divorce are offered the support and resources to help them process the event in a developmentally appropriate manner. 

In fact, in a 15 year longitudinal study researchers found that divorce wasn’t the acute crisis it was once thought to be.  Instead the negative effects were a result of the post-divorce quality of life and the relationship of the child with their parents.

This means that those children who were able to live outside of poverty, with a parent who was willing to offer support and develop a strong relationship with the child was more likely to emerge from this crisis with little to no negative effects.  But because the majority of women take a 40% cut in lifestyle after a divorce and are often the residential parent children will experience a change in the quality of their life. 

In another study Wallerstein described an effect where up to 66% of the women who were interviewed post-divorce had a resurgence of anxiety, fear, guilt and anger that had been suppressed for many years.  These feelings tended to resurface when the young adult was attempting to make their own major life decisions.

Children who are offered support and resources as they are going through a divorce have better initial outcomes and are more likely to seek counseling or support when they experience a resurgence of feelings at later points in their life.

What Are The Short Term Effects Of Divorce On Children

When dealing with a divorce with children involved the short-term effects of divorce on children should be of priority concern.

Divorce takes a toll on the children, the adults, the cousins, aunts and uncles.  In-laws become out-laws and the once-married couple estranged. 

Today approximately 50% of marriages end in divorce.  Although the statistics are staggering so are the short and long term effects of the divorce on the children and the extended family members.

Depending upon the situation children can have intense feelings and reactions to the initial announcement that their parents are separating. 

In some cases the separation, although painful, is a welcome relief from an abusive situation but in most cases it can come as a complete surprise to the children making the burden even greater. 

Regardless of a child’s age, sex or developmental level most children are inadequately prepared for an impending divorce of their parents. 

A study in 1980 found that less than 10% of children had the support of adults other than their relatives during the initial phase of a divorce. 

Today churches, schools and other social service agencies have begun to address the needs of children both in the acute stage and the long term stages of divorce.  The hope is that children are having their needs met earlier than before.

However, addressing the needs of young children also depends upon whether or not people are aware of what is happening in the family.  Many times both the children and adults do not easily share the information that the marriage has dissolved.

Children experience a unique blend of pain during the initial stages of divorce.  These feelings are a composition of a sense of vulnerability because the family has disintegrated and changed drastically. 

They also have grief reaction to the loss of the family member who has moved out and a feeling of intense anger at the parent they blame for the divorce or separation.  Mixed among all of these feelings are strong feelings of powerlessness.

Unfortunately, unlike other times of bereavement children who are experiencing the stress of a divorce aren’t offered the usual means of support because adults have their own stressed reactions to the divorce process. 

In some instances friends of the family turn away in their ignorance or unwillingness to give support to the children or the family in this time of need.

Divorce, and the resulting changes to the family unit can have a significant and life-altering impact on the growth and development of children and adolescents. 

Depending upon the developmental level of the child a divorce can impact almost all aspects of a child’s life including the relationship between the child and both parents and the ability of the child to cope with stressful times in their lives.

Following a separation or divorce it’s important for parents to recognize the impact on the children and offer them the emotional and psychological support needed in order to help them grow to be well adjusted adults.

There are things that parents and other adults can do to help the child process the event in a manner that decreases the risk of life-altering changes and developmental arrest. 

The amount of trauma a child feels in a divorce is based on the child’s experience of the divorce and not just on the event.  Different children in the same family can have different experiences and emotional reactions based on their developmental level, ability to communicate their needs and reactions and the amount of support and help available to them.

Parents can help by being honest about the potential for experiencing trauma during this event.  Allow them to communicate their feelings and needs openly with an adult, preferably their parent.  Encourage them to describe how they are feeling.  Offer them choices whenever possible so they feel a greater sense of control in their lives.

Parents who find support for themselves and their children have better outcomes than those parents who struggle through this even on their own. 

Support can come in the form of counselors, other children who have experience divorce in their lives, therapists and church groups.  But above all children need a sense of continuity in their lives. 

They must have a certain amount of structure and be able to predict what will happen next to give them the security they need to work through this process.


How To Deal With Your Child’s Habit Of Interrupting

Trying to teach your child not to interrupt can sometimes be an exercise in frustration. 

Telling them there’s a time to interrupt (in case of a fire) and a time to not interrupt (boredom) isn’t enough. But putting these principles into practice is easier said than done, especially for a very verbal or high-energy kid. That’s why now is a good time to revisit some basic lessons about good manners and teaching your child to wait their turn to speak.

First of all, set a reasonable expectation. School-aged children have a difficult time holding their thoughts for more than a few minutes.  Indicate to her as best as you can that you’ll be with them as soon as possible and then stay true to your word. 

Develop some ideas for them to occupy themselves with while you’re on the phone or otherwise unavailable. Keep a box full of puzzles, crayons, colorful markers or other quiet toys nearby that they can only use when you have to make a call. Set snacks and drinks on an accessible level so they don’t have to interrupt you for help.

When you need to make a call or have an important conversation with a visitor, head off trouble by saying you’re about to phone someone or have a conversation and estimate how long you expect to talk. Ask them if they need anything before you make your call or have your conversation with your company. Then do your best to adhere to that time schedule, and excuse yourself from the conversation long enough to check on them. Let them know you’ll be a bit longer if that’s the case and see if they need anything before returning to your conversation.

Reading is a great tool to teach manners.  Find several books on the subject then read them together. Discuss afterwards what your child learned from the story and how they’ll handle a similar situation in their life the next time it occurs.

And as always, children learn what they live.  Your child is very unlikely to learn not to interrupt if they hears you, your spouse, or their siblings constantly interrupting each other.  Your actions have a strong influence on your child, so be a good example and ask permission to speak before speaking, and apologize when you inadvertently interrupt.

Do You Actively Listen To Your Child

Communicating with our children can be a difficult task at times.  We feel like they’re not listening to us; they feel like we’re not listening to them.  Good listening and communications skills are essential to successful parenting.  Your child’s feelings, views and opinions have worth, and you should make sure you take the time to sit down and listen openly and discuss them honestly.

It seems to be a natural tendency to react rather than to respond.  We pass judgment based on our own feelings and experiences.  However, responding means being receptive to our child’s feelings and emotions and allowing them to express themselves openly and honestly without fear of repercussion from us. 

By reacting, we send our child the message that their feelings and opinions are invalid.  But by responding and asking questions about why the child feels that way, it opens a dialog that allows them to discuss their feelings further, and allows you a better understanding of where they’re coming from.  Responding also gives you an opportunity to work out a solution or a plan of action with your child that perhaps they would not have come up with on their own.  Your child will also appreciate the fact that maybe you do indeed understand how they feel. 

It’s crucial in these situations to give your child your full and undivided attention.  Put down your newspaper, stop doing dishes, or turn off the television so you can hear the full situation and make eye contact with your child.   Keep calm, be inquisitive, and afterwards offer potential solutions to the problem. 

Don’t discourage your child from feeling upset, angry, or frustrated.  Our initial instinct may be to say or do something to steer our child away from it, but this can be a detrimental tactic.  Again, listen to your child, ask questions to find out why they are feeling that way, and then offer potential solutions to alleviate the bad feeling.

Just as we do, our children have feelings and experience difficult situations.  By actively listening and participating with our child as they talk about it, it demonstrates to them that we do care, we want to help and we have similar experiences of our own that they can draw from.  Remember, respond – don’t react.