Divorcing parents have a great deal to worry about as they progress through the process. From financial decisions including child support and spousal maintenance to physical changes such as property division and visitation, the divorce process can feel like a continuous string of negotiations. Unfortunately, the children are also feeling the stress and strain of the situation – even if they cannot appropriately articulate their concerns.
In general, children of certain ages will react to the divorce with different emotions that highlight their level of maturity, including:
- Confusion: Young children are often confused by the divorce and the new separation of parental responsibilities. Their parents hardly ever interact and the children are forced to go between two different households. Additionally, young children do not have the capacity to fully conceptualize the divorce itself and might begin to worry that their parents’ love is conditional.
- Worry: Grade school-age children have started to conceptualize the end of the marriage. Unfortunately, they begin to worry that somehow the divorce is their fault. Did they misbehave? Did they not get good enough marks in school? While adults might immediately recognize these as non-factors, young children truly worry that they caused the family to split up.
- Anger: Teenagers are more likely to feel anger about the divorce. They will resent the changes the divorce forces upon them and the unnecessary complexity they now must endure. Additionally, the teen might blame one parent specifically for the change or resent both parents, negatively altering their mood in all interactions.
A divorce will introduce an enormous amount of stress to the entire family. While the parents might be concerned about financial stability and separating one household into two secure futures, the children are experiencing anxiety which could lead to mental health issues, behavior problems and poor academic performance. It is important to have honest discussions with your children regarding the divorce and their role in it.