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The Effects of Divorce on Children of All Ages

Kelly Caperton Fischer | August 31, 2016


The effects of a divorce can have long-lasting impact on children and may affect their own future relationships. Of course, “children” does not mean only those who are under the age of 18.  This includes adult children as well.  Sons and daughters will always be their parents’ children, regardless of their age.

In order to best break down how children may react to a divorce, it makes sense to classify children by age group.

Babies, toddlers, and preschool-aged children

Experts across the board agree that frequent, consistent contact with both parents is of utmost importance to young children.  If you had certain routines (such as with mealtime or bedtime) prior to the divorce, talk with the other parent and try to continue those routines in both households.  Aim to create a schedule that allows frequent contact with both parents and avoids lengthy periods of separation between a parent and the child.  Creating a loving and secure environment in which your child can grow will go a long way.

Elementary though tween-aged children

This age can be difficult for children of divorce, given that they are more aware of the change in the family’s dynamics.  They are old enough to understand more of the complicated emotions surrounding conflict and fault, though certainly not able to completely understand.  Your child’s questions will likely center around themselves and their role in the divorce.  It should be reiterated that they are not at fault, and that no matter what, they are loved.  Children at this age can either become withdrawn or act out with negative behaviors.  As with younger kids, it is important that you and your former partner model amicable behavior in front of your child.  Professional counseling with a therapist or school counselor can be beneficial during and after the divorce.

Teens through college-aged children

With this age group, self-esteem and academic concerns tend to be the most common consequences stemming from a divorce, although understanding and acceptance tends to come more readily.  Although nearing adulthood, young adults should still be shielded from specific conflicts between you and your soon-to-be ex.  Talk with your child about their feelings and emotions.  Let them know it is okay to ask for help.

Grown children

Being an adult does not necessarily lessen the impact of your parents’ divorce.  As a divorce attorney, I see clients overshare details of their divorce with their adult children or expect them to choose sides.  Remember that although your children are grown, they are not automatically equipped to handle your divorce.  Ensure that any negative discussions about the other parent occur with friends or professionals, not your children.

Making proper choices and demonstrating appropriate behavior during your divorce makes a world of difference in minimizing the impact of the divorce on your children.   Although there may be an “at fault” parent, there is no reason your child (at any age) needs to know that.  Keeping the line of communication open with the other parent and providing continuity between households shows your children they are the priority.  Try supporting the other parent’s punishment of the child or helping finish a school project started on the other parent’s time. Creating a united front is crucial to reducing negative effects of divorce on your children.

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