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How Divorce Affects Children’s Health And Development

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During any separation or divorce, it's not just the adults who are affected, but the kids too. Toddlers and young children who aren't able to fully process the situation may end up throwing tantrums, becoming more irritable and anxious, losing their appetite, or complaining of aches and pains. Older kids and teens might become withdrawn and struggle with school. Even normally well-behaved kids might start to misbehave. If you ignore a child’s cries for help, it could impact their self-esteem, self-sufficiency, and relationships, and even put them at risk for depression and alcohol abuse as adults. 

It’s hard enough going through a separation or divorce as an adult, but it can be even more difficult for kids. The breakdown of your relationship will undoubtedly impact your child’s emotional and psychological development – how much is dependent on how the situation is handled. Below, we discuss the emotions and behavioral changes kids may experience and the potential impact on their development. Knowing these can help you give your child a safe, positive environment in which they can continue to flourish.

How Separation Affects Children Emotionally


Regardless of age, toddlers to teens will, in some form, experience some or all of the following emotions after witnessing a divorce or separation of their parent's:

  • Sense of loss: It isn’t just the loss of the joint parental unit and home, but their world as they know it.
  • Anger: It’s natural to want to find someone to blame or take their anger out on. As their parent, that may likely be you.
  • Guilt: Children may even blame themselves for being in some way responsible for your separation. This can translate to feelings of guilt and worry. 
  • Fear of being abandoned: The separation of the family may have been an unthinkable event for your child. But now that it’s happened, they might fear that the other parent will leave them as well. This fear of being alone is a very real one for your child.
  • Insecurity: A part of the insecurity a child has is linked to the sense of rejection they feel when one parent moves out. It’s as if they have been personally rejected by that parent.
  • Being torn between parents: Your child may feel like they have to choose between two sides. This can leave them feeling torn and confused.
  • Irritability: A child may become more cranky or irritable than they normally are. This is a sign of anxiety.
  • Anxiety and depression: Some children may show signs of depression or anxiety.
  • Emotional maturity: Sometimes, if the experience is handled right, a child may actually emerge stronger from the separation of their parents. They might take on more responsibility and also become more emotionally mature than their peers.

Questions for discussion:

  1. How separation affects children's health and development? 
  2. When should we tell the children about impending divorce?
  3. When a child seems to have little reaction to parents divorce. Does that mean he or she doing fine? Explain?
  4. What can we do to ease the child or children through the period of divorce?
  5. Will the child or children be ok with new step-parent? 
  6. Will the child or children be ok if there are step-siblings?
  7. Do you think children will suffer emotional harm forever in a divorce? Does the children's age make big difference?
  8. Do you think divorce is different for boys than for girls? Explain?
  9. How to help preschoolers through a divorce?
  10. Do you think divorce is a sin? Do people get divorced too easily and too quickly?
  11. Why do you think divorce is high in some countries than others?
  12. Is divorce a big problem in Russia?Why are divorce rates increasing in Russia and around the world?
  13. Does divorce mean part of you is a failure?
  14. Do you think divorce would be less common if couples live together before marriage?
  15. Should couples have to take marriage counseling before they file for divorce?

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