Family & Personal Law

How Divorce Affects Children

Divorce is a painful decision for couples. It is easy to assume that even the toddler does not know what is going on but truth is that they do. They are able to pick up the stress and tension between mummy and daddy.

Not so much: While it’s true that kids this young are not able to comprehend the dynamics of why Mommy and Daddy aren’t going to live together anymore, they absolutely will feel the effects of the resulting changes. Two year old are normally dependent on routines and have a strong desire for things to be the same as usual. During divorce, a significant attachment figure that your child relies on will no longer be available to him regularly—this will be a big adjustment for your child, but one he can make with extra support.

What They Understand

Your child’s greatest awareness will be when either mommy or daddy is no longer living in the same house. He or she will wonder where the other parent is and may ask, “Where’s Mommy?”—even if he just received an answer a short while ago (and a half-hour before that, and an hour prior to that …). And even with repeated answers, toddlers may find the idea that their world has changed bewildering. In fact, only once they reach school age will children fully understand the concept of the term “divorce.”

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When parents divorce they do not only break their hearts and dreams, they also destroy the dreams of their teenage son or daughter. Your teenage child will blame one of you or all of you for the breakup. They will no longer think that true love is possible since their parents do not live to that statement.

When divorce happens, teens of this age range may feel embarrassed by the family break-up and may react by idealizing one or both parents. Younger kids typically continue to love both sets of parents and views divorce as the enemy; teens tend to hold their parents accountable for the divorce. They may become critical expressing that “if dad had not done that” or “if mom would have done this”, our family could still be together. Teens often feel their parents did not try hard enough in their marriage and now everyone is suffering. They do not feel that the divorce just happened, in their own need for control, they may blame one or both of their parents.

The teen years are a time when kids begin to think about their future love life. When parents divorce, it may hamper the teens indulgence to dream and hope about love for themselves. If mom and dad got divorced, they believe their own chances for success are diminished.

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Most couples usually assume that their divorce will not affect their adult kids. Truth is it does and it makes them have great trust issues. When mum and dad decide to go asunder, young adults feel they no longer have a home to go back to or someone to take them out since mum or dad is busy dating.

”When neither Mom nor Dad (Continued on Page 50) had room for me during spring break,” a 19-year-old man recalled, ”it finally hit me that I no longer had a home to go back to and, like it or not, I’d better get my act together because it was, ‘Welcome to the adult world, kid, you’re now completely on your own.’ ”

Because the divorce represented the first sobering crisis in their young adult lives, many in the study believed it marked the end of an era of trust and ushered in a new apprehension about life’s unforeseen calamities. They reported an unprecedented preoccupation with death, disease and crippling disabilities. They became self-described cynics, and began scanning relationships for subterfuge. ”I used to believe what people said,” a 22-year-old woman recalled. ”I used to trust my roommates. I used to trust my boyfriends, and now I know I also used to be certifiably ‘judgment impaired.’ ”

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