Understanding the Impact of Divorce on Child Development
Divorce can have a wide range of consequences for a child’s development. Even when the divorce is requested for the best reasons, children still experience shock and disturbances. Many of the impacts can fade over time, as long as appropriate communication and feedback are in place.
Emotional & Behavioural Changes
Children of divorced parents can experience a range of emotional and behavioural changes, including:
- Anxiety– Children may feel uncertainty over what will happen next and worry.
- Depression– They may feel sadness from the disruption in their family and take out frustrations on others.
- Anger– Children may be hurt and resentful about the changes and blame themselves for the divorce.
- Poor academic performance– They may not be able to focus or concentrate.
- Poor socialization– They may be standoffish and withdrawn from others, or may lash out.
Benefits of Divorce
In some cases, divorce can make a negative situation more bearable, and lead to healthier development in children. For example:
- Ending domestic violence– Children who grow up in a household with domestic violence can have their development stunted, but divorce can take away the abusive environment.
- Improved communication– Children may be able to communicate more openly with each parent separately.
- Reduced stress levels– A child may experience less tension and anxiety with divorced parents than with parents who stayed together but had a highly strained relationship.
Preventing Negative Outcomes
Divorced parents should take steps to ensure that their children are coping in a healthy way. Some approaches include:
- Maintaining consistent parenting– Even if daily life changes as a result of divorce, children should understand that the changes do not reflect their worth as individuals.
- Encouraging open dialogue and offering comfort– Parents should provide a safe outlet for the child to talk about their feelings, and help them cope with their stress.
- Establishing a sense of community– In addition to regular contact with both parents, children should also have access to regular activities, such as sports or clubs, to maintain a sense of normalcy.
Though divorce can be a difficult experience for children, it can also be a time of growth and realignment with goals. As long as divorced parents are prepared to stay engaged in their child’s life and offer appropriate feedback, the problems can be managed and potentially even avoided.