Understanding the effects of divorce on children

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has put the official figure for divorces granted in England and Wales at 103,592. Considering the nature of divorce proceedings, it can be a terribly difficult period for all parties concerned. If the adults going through a divorce struggle with the chaos in their lives triggered by the dissolution of a marriage, then the toll on the children in the marriage is equally taxing.

Divorce can institute significant changes in children’s lives: change in living situation, moving to a new home, changing schools, leaving friends behind and new family dynamics can all have an emotional and psychological impact on children, which can also alter their behaviour.

The professional expertise and experience of family solicitors Emsworth can help with all children-related advice and guidance, such as parental rights and responsibilities as well as the application for orders for seeing or visiting children.

Mental and behavioural issues associated with a divorce in children

Divorce tends to affect children of different ages differently, but no matter the age, it is the norm for parents to see their children undergo behavioural changes and experience mental issues. Even infants can experience the tension between separating parents.

Depression is a major worry, especially if it leads to suicidal attempts. Parents may be focused on a number of issues during the divorce process, but they should not forget to watch for errant behaviour in their children.

Bad behaviour and disobedience are other commonly seen issues in children of parents going through a divorce. Research has shown that these children, particularly adolescents, are more likely to engage in early sexual activity and other destructive behaviour like illicit drug use and crime.

child in divorce

A drop in academic performance is another indication that a child may be struggling to cope with the divorce process. Their lack of focus may stem from anger or worry about how their lives are about to change. Without the right emotional support and guidance, children will not know how to cope with the related stress, anxiety and insecurity.

Stress and anxiety are also heightened by eating and sleeping problems. A lack of appetite can put physical health at risk, particularly for growing bodies that require proper nutrition for development. Younger children may be more prone to nightmares and begin to demonstrate belief in fantastical beings.

Relate offers some tips and guidance to parents on how to help children adjust to a divorce more positively. It is important to keep in mind the ages of the children as some guidelines may be better suited to older children. For example, younger children may not understand what went wrong in the marriage as much as older children would.

It is important to emphasise to children that they are in no way at fault for the situation and that even though there will need to be adjustments made, they will always have their parents in their lives.

Children who respond to the divorce process in a healthier manner may not suffer relationship problems of their own in adulthood. Statistics put children who go through a divorce at a higher risk of seeing their own marriages disintegrate down the line.

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