How Divorce Affects Children

Divorce is one of the most life-changing events for children and their parents. Regardless of age, the consequences of divorce and its negative influence affect every child in some way. It does not mean that there are any certainties in the consequences of divorce that involves children. It means that there are certain tendencies, which can predict the behavior of children, influenced by a fateful decision of parents. Divorce means a massive change in the lives of parents and their children is coming. This change will possibly lead children to witness the loss of relationships between their parents. In this way, it is important to discuss the difficulties, which children have to face in the light of divorce. The following discussion is a reflection of stages of adjustment, different responses of children to the divorce, and the effects of divorce on children and their minds. By the end of the discussion, one will be able to understand how to act in order to reduce the negative influence of the decision, which cannot be avoided in any way.

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Stages of Adjustment

The divorce is a decision that is hard to make, as it brings a lot of pain. This decision leads to the loss of predictability and stability that is necessary for the proper development of every child. It is impossible to disagree that divorce is one of the most stressful events in the family. It is necessary to refer to three main stages of adjustment, which characterize every period of the child’s behavior. The three stages include acute, transitional, and after the divorce. The acute stage is a period when parents are making the decision to divorce and the events, which lead to the divorce. It may be a long lasting period, which may take up to two years or more before the divorce actually occurs. The process of divorce is full of difficult moments when a child realizes that love between parents slowly disappears. The transitional stage is a period approaching the divorce, which means that a child needs to adjust to the new status of the relationship between parents. In addition, this period may involve the adjustment to the relations with the non-custodial parent. Usually, this stage may last for a few weeks or even more. The time needed for a child to adjust depends on the child’s ability to accept the new changes in the relationship of a family. The post-divorce stage is another important period, which considers the development of the new stability in the family. It is a period when a child learns how to live after the parents’ divorce and accept the new stability, which can bring peace and comfort to the family. However, the post-divorce stage is unpredictable and full of unexpected changes, which depend on the behavior of parents and children. The child becomes more vulnerable, which means that there is a need to take care of family relations, if parents are aiming to bring comfort to the child’s development.

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Responses of Children to the Divorce

There are different responses of children to the divorce and separation of parents. It is a stressful situation for all, and it can have two types of responses, including regression and aggression. Regression refers to children who have a high dependence on their parents and still need much care and support. Aggression, in its turn, is a response of children approaching the adolescent stage. For example, when a child faces the divorce, it is most likely to intensify his/her dependence and overall vulnerability. A child sees the world in a way which is fully dependent on parents. Parents are trying to provide their child with the appropriate care, affection, and warmness of the relations. It is an aspect, which highly determines a child’s social activity and interaction with the surrounding world (Pickhardt). In this way, a child may become afraid of the surrounding world when he/she loses the support of parents. It does not mean that after divorce one of the parents denies taking care of a child. However, a child feels lonely without the common caring environment that was created by both parents.

In case of a teenager, he/she is most likely to see the opposite effect, which lies in the acceleration of independence and rough desire to handle the new life challenges without parent’s help. It is a natural response to stress, which becomes a shield for a teenager who is seeking for comfort and peace. A teenager also decides to become more independent in order not to rely on parent’s care and support, which does not reflect enough stability after the divorce. It is a common response to the changes in relations of parents, which may also lead to the feeling of guilt and inability to influence the relations of parents. A teenager has a mixture of feelings, which lead him to asking numerous questions. In the fear of losing another parent and facing the destruction of other relations, a teenager decides to be distant from family care. In this way, it becomes easier to prepare for all the pain and stress which may happen again. The mind of a teenager has more understanding of the situation, which means that a teenager fully realizes the threat of divorce and the inability to avoid it. Children, in their turn, do not understand the reasons for the divorce; children only see the consequences, which bring fear and insecurity in their minds. 

Effects of the Divorce on Children and Their Minds

The divorce affects every family in a different way, which has a destructive force on the behavior of children. It is difficult to predict the myriad of the consequences of every child, which means that every child is unique, as a result of the different surrounding environments. However, it is possible to consider several common changes in the behavior of children, caused by a significant influence of stress on their minds. Children aged from 2 to 5 years old may suffer from sleepless nights and separation anxiety. These problems are common for small children who cannot accept the absence of another parent. The above-mentioned consequences are the results of the inability to understand the decision of parents and live without the daily portion of love and care of both parents. Children aged from 5 to 12 years old may suffer from grief, sadness, anger, and various phobias. In addition, it is possible to see the development of some habits, which come in the response to stress. For example, a child may start washing hands more frequently in order to control the situation. It happens in the light of inability to prevent the divorce and help the parents to handle all the difficulties. Moreover, children are more vulnerable than teenagers; therefore, children may suffer from loneliness and the inability to communicate with their peers. Finally, teenagers tend to feel insecure and lonely. Sadness and stress may trigger the risk-taking behaviors, which may lead to drug and alcohol abuse, sex, violence, and theft. In addition, teenagers may develop unhealthy eating habits, leading to disorders, such as bulimia nervosa. Binge eating may also become another problem of teenagers who are trying to handle stress.

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In order to help children, it is important to engage both parents in the recovery of their child’s emotional state. First, it is important to talk to the child openly without anger and irritation. A child deserves to know the truth in order to accept the fact of the divorce and the inability to avoid it. In addition, talking can help a child to feel the support and care of both parents. Remaining affectionate and participating in school activities may also help a child to feel comfort and care of both parents. In this way, it would be possible to avoid the negative consequences of divorce and help the child to handle all the stress. 


The paper successfully discussed the essence of the effects of divorce on children and teenagers. In particular, the paper revealed the existing changes in the minds of children and their inability to handle stress because of the unexpected changes in the family relations. It became obvious that children of different ages tend to develop a myriad of responses to stress. The discussion has revealed not only the stages of acceptance, but also the variety of responses of children to stress. Finally, it became obvious that it is necessary to take care of children and increase the attention to their needs in the period of divorce and after it.

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