By ABCS RCM
Divorce is a reality of modern life. When a marriage dissolves due to divorce, stress on children is understandable. Beyond the death of a parent, divorce is one of the most intense emotional pains that a child can experience.
Over the past decades, the United States has seen an increasing divorce rate. However, divorce rates for most of the nations in nations in Europe have also experienced the same upward trend. Today, roughly about 50% of US children live with their married, biological parents.
Beyond the high number of marriages ending in divorce, many children face mental health challenges from this occurrence. These mental health conditions can actually follow children into adulthood and have a negative influence on their own marital relationships as adults.
It is important to remember that not every child responds the same way to this kind of stress. Children and the circumstances surrounding every divorce are unique. For example, if parents had an abusive, tumultuous relationship, a divorce may open the door for new opportunities and a sense of freedom.
Other research suggests that people’s gender may influence how they respond to a divorce. Research suggests that young girls tend to turn inward, while younger boys seem to display outward behaviors. Regardless of gender, the initial reaction to hearing the news of a divorce is usually one of shock, sadness, anger or worry.
Divorce interrupts the normal pattern of a child’s life. The turmoil from this event can create upheaval that leads to depression and anxiety for some children. Here are three general emotions that children in divorce will likely experience:
Depression: There is a certain level of despondency that most kids will feel. They may experience a loss of spirit or hope for a brighter future due to the loss of their existing family structure.
Anxiety: Children need to adjust to a tremendous amount of change. This forced adjustment creates a high degree of stress. Their original family system is no longer intact. What they knew and were accustomed to is being reorganized or disappearing.
Anger: Displays of anger or frustration are common. Children may feel that they have been lied to and their trust in their parents violated. Most kids assume that their parents and family will always be there.
There are actions that people can take in order to help children cope with the effects of a divorce. For all individuals, young or old, it is normal to mourn the loss of a family unit. However, children need to come to terms with the new household situation. It is natural to wish that mom and dad would get back together, but children and young adults need to understand the new reality.
With patience and understanding, kids can learn to better cope with stress, become more flexible and grow into resilient adults. But, it is also important that parents work to reconcile their emotional differences after the divorce in order to create a new emotional foundation for their kids.
Parents need to establish a new routine that normal which helps kids cope with this new family structure. Developing a stable and positive working relationship is an important step for providing children with a stable homelife.
Here are eight tips for talking to kids about divorce:
 If at all possible, have both parents present for the discussion.
 Pick a relaxed time of day, when there are no impending commitments.
 Use simple and direct language. For example: "Your father and I have grown apart. We care about each other, but we don't want to be married anymore."
 Acknowledge that it is a sad situation. Children are likely to experience painful feelings, become angry, cry or have other natural reactions.
 Reassure children that they are loved and both mom and dad and will keep them safe, whether they are together or not.
 Children often feel responsible or blame themselves when their parents break up. Reassure children that the divorce was not their fault.
 If possible, provide concrete details about the new living arrangement. For example: "You'll be living with me every other weekend."
 Avoid blaming the other parent. Even if the breakup was triggered by the other partner’s actions, this is not the time to share adult problems with a child who is dealing with this stressful situation.
It is important that kids are allowed to be kids. During a divorce, parents should not lean on their children for support. However, they should not become a provider of emotional support. Parents can let their kids know how much they appreciate the kindness, but vent any frustrations to a sympathetic adult friend or therapist.
If things feel overwhelming, people should seek a professional help. Seeking help from professional counselor help sets a good example for children on how to make a healthy adjustment to a stressful situation.
For questions about the impact of divorce on children and parents, contact a staff member at Providers For Healthy Living. As a behavioral & mental health practice, one of their mental health specialties is diagnosing and treating stress and anxiety disorders. They have been providing experienced behavioral health services since 2011.
Reach out to them at 614-664-3595 or 419-605-9817.
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