When kids are involved divorce is always an even tougher choice. Some parents believe they should stay together for the kids while others feel they have no choice but to divorce. If you and your spouse are planning a divorce and kids are involved, it’s a good idea to be aware of the effects of divorce on your children’s mental health.
Some experts have indicated that the first year after getting a divorce is the toughest on children’s mental health. It’s normal for kids to experience a range of emotions during this time including anger, anxiety, stress, and even disbelief. It’s not all gloomy though – most kids will bounce back. There are, however, some children who struggle with it more and deal with a significant impact on their mental health.
Let’s explore the six effects of divorce on children’s mental health:
Effect #1: Divorce has negative impacts on the parent-child bond.
Since divorce results in children losing daily contact with one parent (usually the father), this decreased contact impacts the parent-child bond. Some researchers have found that children feel less close to their fathers after divorce takes place.
Even the relationship with the parent that the child is with the most gets impacted during a divorce. A study found that mothers are less supportive and less affectionate with their children following divorce, as well as being less consistent and effective with their discipline. All of this can have negative effects on children’s mental health.
Effect #2: Divorce has a significant emotional impact on children’s mental health.
There are significant effects of divorce on children’s mental health. When parents get divorced, young children often struggle with what is going on and why they need to move between two homes. Young children may even believe that they’re to blame for their parent’s divorce or that since their parents fell out of love, they may stop loving them one day too.
Teenagers usually react with anger about both the divorce and the subsequent changes to their lives. They may even start blaming one or both of their parents for the divorce and changes to their lives.
Effect #3: Divorce has increased risk of longlasting mental health issues.
Many children experience feelings of loss when one parent leaves the family. The effects of divorce on children’s mental health may also include confusion and anxiety around what is going to happen to them.
Studies indicate that children with divorced parents experience higher rates of depression and anxiety and that these issues can sometimes stick around into adulthood and may even become lifelong issues. These are the children who had a harder time getting back to their “normal” lives after the divorce happened.
Research has also found that children of divorced parents score significantly lower than children of continuously married parents on many different measures, including psychological adjustment. These negative impacts can reach all the way into adulthood, and even later in adult married life. These adults have a higher chance of experiencing poverty, engaging in risky sexual behaviour, unplanned pregnancies, problems finishing school, marital problems, and even divorce.
Effect #4: Divorce may lead to behaviour problems in children.
Depending on the child’s age and other factors, they may lack the emotional maturity needed to comprehend why divorce is taking place. Their frustration and stress then start to come out in the form of behavioural problems.
Children from divorced families are faced with more externalizing issues. This includes impulsive behaviour, delinquency, and conduct disorders. These children will also experience more conflict with their schoolmates and friends after a divorce. They may feel very angry and take their anger out on other children.
Even children who were once star students with the best behaviour can experience behavioural issues after a divorce. Behavioural issues range from mildly acting out to destructive behaviour. Parents should be prepared for this as it’s likely to happen. The good news is these issues will usually resolve themselves.
Effect #5: Divorce can cause poor academic performance among children.
Children who are experiencing a divorce tend to do worse in school than their peers. This may be attributed to their feelings of loss, depression, anxiety, and stress. They may not be able to concentrate in school anymore and as a result, their academic performance may take a hit.
Behavioural problems in school can also contribute to the child’s poor academic performance. Children may be forced out of class and into the principal’s office if their behaviour gets out of hand. This can further contribute to their poor academic performance. Divorce has also been linked to higher truancy and dropout rates.
Effect #6: Divorce may encourage risky behaviour in children.
Teenagers whose parents are going through a divorce are more likely to engage in risky behaviour including substance use and early sexual activity. Another finding indicates that children who experience their parents divorcing early in life are more likely to have higher numbers of sexual partners during adolescence.
These are just some of the effects of divorce on children’s mental health. It’s recommended that parents be aware of these effects so they can get their child help if they need it.