Although divorce can be hard on everyone in a family, it is often most challenging for children, who usually have no control over the changes they are experiencing at home. Parents understand this, which is why they often worry about how their divorce will affect their children.
Unfortunately, the answer to that question is not always straightforward. Divorce can affect children in a variety of ways.
It may make some children clingy and other children lash out. Some children may show regressive behaviors, while others may withdraw or begin to struggle academically. Some children might hardly be affected at all.
Why are some children affected more than others?
The way a child reacts to divorce and the severity of that reaction can depend on many factors. Some factors that might influence your child’s reaction, include:
- Your child’s age
- Your child’s personality
- Your child’s exposure to parental conflict
- Your family’s stability before and after divorce
It may seem obvious why children of different ages or personalities might react differently to their parents’ divorce. It may also seem obvious that exposure to parental conflict during divorce is generally harmful to kids.
However, it may seem counterintuitive that a family’s pre-divorce stability could negatively impact a child’s ability to cope with divorce. Studies have shown that children in wealthy, well-educated and well-planned families may be more vulnerable than their peers to the negative effects of divorce.
Researchers believe this trend occurs because children in stable families are less likely to expect their parents to divorce. When children do not expect divorce, they are less prepared to deal with it if it occurs.
In contrast, children from less stable families are more used to having their lives disrupted, so divorce may not feel like a big change. It may even feel like a relief to children who have witnessed regular parental conflict before divorce.
Fortunately, research has also shown that most of the negative effects children experience because of divorce are temporary. Although most children experience some negative affects right away, these effects usually do not last more than two years.
There are plenty of ways parents can help support their children during such a difficult time. However, parents often do not need to worry about their child experiencing any permanent harm.