Today divorce is very common and it affects many families and children around the world. Many kids are deeply affected by this and their parents need to know how to help them get through this tough time. Over the past year there have been over one million children affected by divorce, and more than about 800,000 divorces in the United States alone. (Cohen and Weitzman). The reaction the child is usually involved with the age of the child from infants all the way to adolescents. They all have different responses and are affected in a different way.
Many of the children feel as if their world is falling apart but a lot of these feelings are just short term. For many, it is just short term and they will return to how they were before the divorce but for some cases it can affect them in the long run. (Cohen and Weitzman). Divorce can be a very difficult time for them, it is very stressful as well they starting thinking about what is happening and usually end up blaming themselves. (Kemp, Smith, and Segal). There are five age groups that kids are separated into. The groups are based on the age of the children.
The aged children in these groups are thought to be affected by the divorce in similar ways. These groups don’t mean that every child will be affected this way it is just general effects a majority of children experience. The groups are divided up starting with infants then they move to toddlers, preschool-aged children, school aged children all the way to adolescents. Each group is affected different than the other, but each child can be affected by divorce in a whole different way not mentioned in their group. (Cohen and Weitzman).
Each child will have their own way of reacting and how this change will affect them and change them. Divorce is selective, it can be positive for the parents but negative on the children the parents wanted out of an unhappy relationship while the child wanted their parents to stay together. (Pickhardt 20). Infants are not affected by divorce as much as older children are because they don’t understand what divorce is or what is happening. The age span of infants is usually from birth to about one years old. They do notice the separation by the change in the routines of the caregiver and in this case the infant’s parents.
They also can have a break in attachment with the parent that leaves where they usually stay during the divorce. At around six months old the infant’s stranger anxiety can increase and so can their normal separation anxiety. Infant’s mood can change they can become fussier, listless and more irritable. Their sleeping and eating patterns can also change due to the separation. As we move up an age group to toddlers, the age span of toddlers is usually from age one to around three. They can experience an increase in their separation anxiety with their parents.
The toddler won’t want to leave their parent not even if they are common with the area. (Cohen and Weitzman). “Joe was around three or four when his father and I split up he wouldn’t leave my side for a few months I’d have to pry him off my leg to go to work” (D’Amico). Some toddlers can go as far as losing their abilities to use the toilet and even the ability to talk. The next age group is preschool-aged kids their age span varies from two and a half to four. Preschool-aged children is the age where they start to understand the separation they don’t understand the permanence of it but they will start to ask where the absent parent is.
Jeff just turned four when the we got a divorce he would always ask me where dad was, he also would act out a lot more then used too” (D’Amico). These kids are old enough to think it’s their fault and blame themselves for the divorce they also begin to act out and can possibly have nightmares. (Cohen and Weitzman). “Jemima’s four and she’s getting louder and louder. Everything she says is a shout or yell, the more I tell her to hush the worse she gets. ” (Leach 29). This is a quote from a mother who split with her husband and her four-year-old daughter started acting out after the parents got a divorce.
That is a very common action done by children this age. School aged kids can span from six years to eleven years old. They can develop abandonment issues mainly towards the parent who left. Self-blame is a very common affect school aged children can have because they are old enough at understand what is going on. Many of the older children blame themselves and think they are what made their parents split. They start to think that it was something they did that made their parents get a divorce. If this happens this is when the parents would need to help their child and tell them, it wasn’t them.
You can notice mood changes it usually changes to angry and the child’s grades might start to drop. (Cohen and Weitzman). Adolescents is the last and largest age group it spans from twelve years old all the way to the age of eighteen. These kids are old enough to know some of the reasons why their parents are splitting up and can tend to show favoritism towards one parent more than the other or show more of a dislike toward both. These children can also feel the same away about their parents before they even knew about the divorce. Children can also think that their parents will end up getting back to together.
The idea of suicide is increased in children this age with separated parents. (Cohen and Weitzman). “My parents split when I was about fourteen it was a terrible time for me I always felt mad at didn’t want to do anything, the first few months were the hardest on me. ” said by (Smith). Divorce is hardest on the children the first few months because all this change is so new to them. There are many ways parents can help their child cope with the divorce and try to help prevent them from having long term effects because of the divorce. Another factor other than age on the effects divorce can have on children is gender.
Boys and girls can be effected in similar ways and in very different ways. Young girls can have symptoms of depression, anger and even some psychological issues for up to a year or more but eventually go away. When daughters of divorced families stay with their mother they tend to form a strong relationship with them and that helps deal with the stress that came with the divorce. About 10 percent of girls can be affected by the divorce in a way that makes them not care about school and their grades are negatively affected by it. On average, most girls do fine in school and later in life.
Many girls who live in a divorced family have a change in physical development, many show early onset of menstruation and physical maturation. These young girls aren’t ready for this type of emotional change that comes with these physical developments. Girls are usually expected to be more emotional over the situation while boys are told not to cry or be upset about the divorce. (“How Does Divorce Affect Girls and Boys Differently? “). Boys are affected by divorce by turning to aggressive and out of control and people allow them to work their feeling out this way.
Boys tend to start acting out because they don’t know any other way to work through their feelings. (Avery-Stoss ). They are more likely to have academic problems and truancy, they also can suffer from depression because their father left and they can’t see him every day. (“The Effect of Divorce on Boys,” par. 3). Divorce has a lot of effects on children not all children will experience them all or any but there are many actions parents can take to help their child cope with the divorce.
Different reactions to the divorce based on their home life isn’t uncommon, some kids can feel relieved by t divorce because they know that the constant fighting at home will end. Other kids who have no idea that their parents fight and they can be terrified, surprised and just upset because they had no idea it was coming. Divorce is very stressful for the children having to deal with it but it is very stressful on the parents as well they can turn to substance abuse to try and forget about all the stress that is coming with the divorce.
If that happens the parent can lack their responsibilities, they should take care of their children and give them love when they need it most. (Arkowitz and Lilenfeld). Some factors that can affect how children react to the divorce is moving away from familiar places like moving away from their old home. There are many ways that parents can help their child get through the divorce with them and hopefully make it easier on everyone. Parents can help by listening to their kids so they can hear how they feel and what they are going through as well.
Parents can also reassure that the divorce was not their fault and it had nothing to do with them. Another way to help is to keep your child updated with the divorce, you can tell them certain details about living arrangements and general information. Don’t go into too much detail and overwhelm your child. Most importantly make sure everything you tell your child about the divorce is one-hundred percent true. (Kemp, Smith, and Segal). Divorce is a very stressful event for a family to go through it is stressful on both the children and the parents.
Kids are going to start changing and acting differently because of how the divorce affected them. The age groups that children are put in can help parents know how their child is being affected by what is going on around them. Not all will be affected and act the exact same way as the groups say they will. It all depends on your child. Overall there are many negative effects on children but not all can be negative and not all children will be affected in the same way.