Article – Effects of Divorce on Children

Effects of Divorce on Children

“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart…Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.” ~ Carl Jung

By: Veronica Ruiz-Ashwal, LMHC, MBA

      Divorce is an intensely stressful experience for all children, regardless of age or developmental level; many children are inadequately prepared for the impending divorce by their parents.

      The pain experienced by children at the beginning of a divorce is composed of: a sense of vulnerability as the family disintegrates, a grief reaction to the loss of the intact family (many children do not realize their parents’ marriage is troubled), loss of the non-custodial parent, a feeling of intense anger as the disruption of the family, and strong feelings of powerlessness. I t is almost unique to divorcing families that as children experience the onset of this life change, usual and customary support systems tend to dissolve, though the ignorance or unwillingness of adults to actively seek out this support for children. 

  • Preschool (ages 3-5): These children are likely to exhibit a regression of the most recent developmental milestone achieved
  • Early latency (ages 6½-8): These children will often openly grieve for the departed parent.
  • Late latency (ages 8-11): Anger and a feeling of powerlessness are the predominate emotional response in this age group
  • Adolescence (ages 12-18): Adolescents are prone to responding to their parent’s divorce with acute depression, suicidal ideation, and sometimes violent acting out episodes.

Divorce and its ensuing ramifications can have a significant and life-altering impact on the well being and subsequent development of children and adolescents.  The consequences of divorce impact almost all aspects of a child’s life, including the parent-child relationship, emotions and behavior, psychological development, and coping skills. There is a significant need for child mental health professionals, along with other child specialists, to be cognizant of the broad spectrum of possible fall-out from a divorce and then to provide sufficient support for children of divorced parents in all the necessary psychosocial aspects of the child’s life. At the Center, it is our pleasure to offer “solutions…not talk”

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