Growing up in a household where parents no longer want to be together can be extremely damaging for children, but it is also likely to harm the child if the parents choose to divorce; therefore, it is very important that both parents realise this before they undergo this stressful break-up. Often parents think that divorce is the best option for a child because they will no longer be in a household full of negativity, but there are several psychological effects that this option can have.
It is a very difficult decision to divorce. Some parents may try to wait until their children are older before they finish their marriage, but it is also possible that as children are turning into adults they can still suffer psychological effects from divorce so it's important to recognise that at any stage of their lives children may be psychologically affected by divorce.
Children who are likely to suffer the most psychological problems relating to divorce are those who have undergone custody battles, which continue for a long while. Children who witness parents battling over them may feel they are being pulled in two directions and can feel bitter and guilty towards both parents. They may find it difficult to express themselves to either parent as they fear what they say may influence the custody case. They may become argumentative as they find new ways to express their emotions, which may result in having problems at school and with their peers.
If possible, it is best to avoid a custody battle and try to establish a routine which works for both parents. There is always an element of compromise in situations like this, but it is important to realise that the happiness of the children is extremely important. If children feel as though they are being pulled in several directions and being fought over, it can result in the problems mentioned above, so it is important to try to find a civil way to achieve contact and custody.
Children who are younger may find it very hard to express themselves and to understand what has happened. They may blame themselves for mummy and daddy no longer living together and for the upheaval they may be now experiencing. They will use their imaginations and seek answers in as many ways as possible which may result in them blaming themselves or trying to pinpoint what must have happened.
It is important that parents communicate with their children and explain that the divorce hasn't come about because of them. If children are involved and communicated with then it can help immensely, they will feel as though they are able to express how they feel and it will help them to understand it. Parents may think their children are too young to understand and so they choose not to explain the situation to them, but the fact that they are so young means that they do need explanations as they cannot figure it out for themselves at this age.
Children who are older may have psychological issues that are different than younger children. They may spend time day dreaming about how they can get their parents back together and obsess over this. This could lead them to being distracted from their work and focussing their attention on this area when there is actually nothing they can do. They may struggle to accept the changes and fall behind on important school work and exams. If they are feeling particularly stressed and anxious they may fall into peer pressure and resort to taking drugs or alcohol to try to help them to ignore the pain and torment that they may be feeling.
It is important to communicate with your children who are of this age and to treat them like adults, explain why you are divorcing and ensure that they feel as though they can come to you to discuss their fears. Look out for any behaviour that is not normal of them and follow through on any concerns that you have.
Children may experience a sense of loss of their identity when their parents divorce and this can be the case no matter how old the child is. As roles change within the household, children struggle to understand where they fit and what is expected from them. This can lead to behaviour problems in several areas of life; therefore, it is important to try to ensure there is some form of structure in place.
Psychological effects of divorce can affect a child for life. As children become adults they may have problems choosing their own partner after having witnessed a messy or difficult divorce. It can impact upon how they view relationships and also how much they value themselves.
A divorce is a stressful and difficult time for all. Children may feel guilty and feel they need to work at getting their parents back together or they may no longer feel they know who they themselves are and this may lead to antisocial and difficult behaviours. If you provide your child with explanations, structure and a sense of trust, this will help them to come to terms with the divorce and reduce the chances of psychological effects.