Divorce: the alteration of a family unit through parental separation. Divorce occurs for a multitude of reasons, including but not limited to, growing apart and infidelity. Whatever the case may be for you and your ex-spouse, there is one thing that will always be in common: if children were part of the family unit, they will be experiencing the emotional and mental impacts of the divorce alongside you.
Kids can be impacted in many ways, but some of the most common areas to monitor are academic performance, social life, and emotional regulation as seen below.
Potential impacts of divorce on children.
- Blame themselves for the divorce.
- Attribute acting out (bad behavior) to the divorce.
- Poor academic performance.
- Experimentation with risky behaviors.
- Behavior Regression.
- Experience emotional outbursts.
- Decreased mood.
- Start fights with peers.
- Lose interest in activities.
- Suffer from separation anxiety from the parent(s).
Potential long-term effects of divorce on children.
- Increased substance use
- Psychiatric hospitalizations
- Mental health symptoms and/or conditions
- Difficulty forming and maintaining relationships.
- Increased risk of divorce
- Financial problems.
- Employment difficulties.
The most important thing you need to know about the effects of divorce on children’s mental health is that the parents play an important role in how their children adapt. The parents’ relationships and behaviors can play a role in either increasing or decreasing the mental/emotional effects.
Here are some important interventions to utilize:
- Minimize conflict and hostility around children.
- Avoid putting children in the middle.
- Maintain a healthy parent-child relationship.
- Speak to children with warmth and encouragement.
- Teach coping skills and help children feel safe.
- Preserve appropriate discipline structure.
- Have a support network for yourself and your kids.
- Seek professional help (if needed to help you and/or the family unit adjust).