For children and teenagers, finding out that their parents want to divorce can be a rude awakening. Their entire sense of stability can disappear in a moment, and they will likely worry about what the future will hold for them.
It is normal for parents to worry about how divorce may impact their children and what they need to do to protect their family throughout this often stressful process. Understanding the emotional reactions that children and young adults may have can make it easier for parents to offer appropriate support. What are the most common negative reactions that children have in response to divorce?
1. Disciplinary issues
Children who have previously followed all of the rules and thrived on parental approval might suddenly start lashing out at home or went out with their peers. Children might start talking back to their parents or challenging other authority figures as a way of expressing their anger and frustration at the change to their life over which they have no control. Already having consistent rules in place and enforcing them at both households will make it easier for children to overcome disciplinary challenges.
2. Depression or social withdrawal
Some children don’t know how to communicate with their friends or classmates about their changing family circumstances. Others internalize their negative feelings and start feeling bad about themselves. Depression and changing social circles or reduced socialization are common responses to parental divorce, especially among middle school and high school students.
3. Academic issues
Sometimes, either depression or behavioral issues, possibly both, will contribute to a child seeing a noteworthy drop in their academic performance. Bad grades and divorce often go hand in hand, although teachers may be more compassionate in how they handle a child’s changing attitude or behavior if they know about family circumstances.
Often, children and young adults struggling with the news of an upcoming parental divorce will benefit from counseling or support groups where they could explore and express their emotions in a healthy manner. Children also need to know that their parents still love and support them instead of feeling trapped in the middle during a divorce.
Parents who educate themselves about how shared custody matters and divorces affect families may have an easier time identifying and meeting their children’s needs as household circumstances change.