In the US alone, it’s estimated that there are 800,000 divorces each year, with more than one million children affected by divorce. Divorce has a ripple effect on those caught in its wake. In fact, there’s a 55-percent increase in attempted suicide in kids whose parents are going through a divorce or have divorced. There’s also a 90-percent increase in the need for psychological help for kids whose parents are going through a divorce.
Whether we admit it or not, our kids are greatly influenced by the breakup of their family, even if they don’t immediately say they’re struggling, or if they act as if they’re unaffected. As parents, we can either create more difficulties for our kids or be of tremendous help.
When a child is faced with the situation of his parents’ divorce, his sense of belonging gets shaken and he questions his sense of worth and competence. He will tend to gravitate toward others who are from broken homes to feel a sense of normalcy and connection, or he may just simply disconnect.
The home essentially becomes unbalanced, and your child is left alone to manage emotions that are hard for her to prepare for ahead of time. She may feel angry, lonely, anxious, insecure, shocked, depressed, and disillusioned, all of which are very difficult to manage unless she has someone helping her accurately interpret what is happening in her life.
In part one, we talked about how healthy attachment is the foundation for strong relationships between you and your kids. When your children feel loved, accepted, and attached to you, they are well equipped to develop healthy relationships with their peers and establish meaningful friendships. They are also able to cope with crises better as they seek comfort from you and receive reassurance that they’re in a safe, protective environment.
But what happens when the crisis is a divorce and the attachment to one or both parents is damaged or severed completely? This loss of an important relationship and the conflict that tends to come with parents being at odds with each other may negatively affect children in numerous ways. Here are a few:
- Problems related to learning and attaining educational goals
- Weakened relationships between children and their parents and grandparents
- Decreased ability to manage conflict
- Diminished social skills
- Entry into economic poverty
- Problems with intimate and sexual relationships in the future
- Weakened health and longevity
- Increased risk for behavioral, emotional, and psychiatric problems, as well as suicide
Take The Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory to assess the susceptibility to stress-induced health breakdowns.
Typical Emotions Caused by Divorce
During the divorce process and following a finalized divorce of their parents, children typically wrestle with a variety of emotions, feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Here’s what they may be experiencing:
- Lower motivation for routine and responsibilities
- Anger and irritability
- Lower self-esteem and self-confidence
- Conflicting loyalties
- Reduced satisfaction with life
- Disconnection from others, including friends
- Distraction and difficulty in school
- Hyperactive-type behaviors
- Loss or increase of appetite
- Regression to a younger age in their behaviors, to seek attention and safety
- Wanting to be gone from the house as much as possible