By Krystal Kuehn, MA, LPC, LLP, NCC
Divorce is a major stressful event for children and adults.
To children, divorce is confusing. They have so many
concerns and questions about how their lives will change.
They cannot control what is happening to their family, and they often think that they are responsible for their parents divorce. Strong emotions are experienced such as hurt and anger.
For adults and children, divorce is an adjustment that takes time. It is more difficult for some than others, depending on a number of factors. Conflict between parents creates more stress and difficulty for children of divorce. Support from family and friends has a significant impact on coping. Children with little support tend to feel more insecure and worried than children with a good support system.
Signs of difficulty adjusting and accepting divorce are most evident in children’s behavior. There will be changes in their normal patterns, such as irritability and angry outbursts. Some children will become more withdrawn and lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. Academic problems can also develop as a result of changes in behavior. Children experiencing depression may have difficulty focusing on their schoolwork. Aggressive behavior in children can cause problems with teachers and peers. Overall effort and motivation can wane. For this reason, it is extremely important for children of divorce to get the support and help they need to make healthy adjustments and improve coping.
Research shows that children of divorce are at higher risk for:
• academic problems • aggressive behavior • drug experimentation and use • sexual activity • relationship problems • low self-esteem • depression
Parents and teachers often underestimate the difficulties children of divorce face. There are many behavioral signs as listed below. Most children of divorce will experience some of these symptoms.
• regressive behavior in young children: whining, clinging, returning to security blanket, toilet training problems, thumb sucking • sleeping problems • fears, insecurities, worries • withdrawal, isolation, unusually quiet • disobedient, disrespectful to parents and authority • aggressive, violent, or destructive behaviors • anger, resentment, embarrassment about divorce • physical symptoms: aches and pains, stomach problems, headaches • academic problems: focus, truancy, declining grades, tardiness,
Although children of divorce are at a higher risk for many problems, they can make healthy adjustments and develop a strong support system. They can begin to understand divorce and not fear its consequences. They can gain peace of mind as they learn that although life will be different, life can be good. Divorce is not the end of the world but the beginning of a new life. Children can learn how to manage their feelings and accept the challenges and new responsibilities they will have. Focus and motivation can be restored, and they can face life with greater strength and hope.
Children need support and help as they deal with the many challenges of divorce. The stress, confusion, and behavioral problems can be significantly reduced with proper and healthy intervention. Many future problems can also be prevented. Children can make a positive transition with children therapy. For children, divorce counseling can provide a strong and safe support system to help them adjust and cope. Children therapy can help them work through their many emotions, release their fears and anger, keep focused and perform their best in school, and maintain good relationships with their parents, siblings, peers, and teachers.
Divorce does not have to lead children down a dark, difficult, destructive path. Children are resilient. They can understand and adjust well. They can learn healthy ways to cope and overcome challenges. They can have peace in the midst of the storm, and love can be their anchor. Children of divorce can develop greater compassion, deeper insight, understanding and wisdom from their experience. They can become stronger and more determined as they withstand the tempest winds and tumultuous seas that threaten to overcome them. Children of divorce can and will succeed with help and support.