What are the Effects of Parents' Divorce on Children?

What are the Effects of Parents' Divorce on Children?

Getting divorced is a difficult process not only for the couple but also for their children. Divorce creates an emotional turmoil for the family which they go through and it can be very confusing, scaring and draining for the kids. For young children, they get confused and struggle to understand what is going on with their parents. They may worry that the parents would stop loving them or even worse abandon them. The grade school kids would take the blame on themselves and think that they are at fault for the divorce. They may fear that because of their misbehaviour or do something wrong which led to their parent’s separation. Talking about the teenagers, they have very intense reactions to the parent’s separation. It is likely that they would be angry about the divorce and fear about the changes it would lead to. They end up blaming one of the parents and resent the other for disrupting the family dynamics. Although every family has different situations, it is possible that kids were able to handle the divorce better than others or the parents were able to handle the divorce better for their family.

Many researchers claim that separation of parents is associated with high risk for their child to face adjustment problems, behavioural problems and mood changes. They have setbacks in their academic performances as well and get indulged in substance abuse. It is also known that the child is likely to engage in risky sexual behaviour, live in poverty and experience instability in their own family in future. Here are some of the common effects of divorce on children:

Poor Performance in Academics:

Divorce can be distracting and confusing for the children to understand and wrap their heads around the situation. This results in losing their interest and focus in their academics. The more distracted the children are, the more their academic performance will be affected.

Difficulty in Adapting Change:

With parents separating from each other, it brings about major changes in a child’s life. Now they have to divide their time between his/her parents, go to different houses and they find it difficult to cope up with the change. They need to learn and adapt the changes in their new family, new house, school or friends. According to various researches, divorce can affect kids socially as well. Children whose parents are going through divorce find it very difficult to relate to other children of their age, further resulting in less social interaction. They feel insecure and wonder if they are the only ones whose parents got divorced. 

Emotionally Sensitive:

Divorce can lead to various emotions like anger, loss, confusion, anxiety and many more. The child is not able to process his/her emotions in a healthy way. It can leave the child with  overwhelmed and emotionally sensitive feeling. Some children tend to lash out and indulge themselves in destructive behaviours, others withdraw themselves from the world. This is due to their inability to process their emotions and understand them. Some of the kids tend to feel guilty and blame themselves for the parent’s unsuccessful relationship.

Loss of Faith in Marriage and Family Unit:

For some children it gets hard to handle and process the situation of divorce and if not taken care immediately and in an efficient way, they tend to take the negatives of the situation and set their own perception about the same. The children lack faith in marriages as well as families. Many researchers suggest that children who experienced divorce in their early years were more likely to divorce later in their own relationship. The propensity of divorce is 2-3 times higher when compared to children who came from non-divorced families.


Parents play a significant role in helping the child to cope up with the struggles and problems he/she might be facing because of the divorce. Here are some strategies which could help the children so that could lessen the psychological toll on the children.

 Co-Parent Peacefully:

Conflicts between the parents could result in increasing the child's distress. Screaming, threatening each other could lead to behavioural problems. Parents should be able to co- parent the child harmoniously instead of showcasing aggressiveness towards each other in front of their wards. They need to work together to resolve their differences so that the child’s behaviour is not affected. Children are able to sense slight discomfort between the parents so parents need to be careful around their young children.

Maintain Healthy Relationships:

Parental warmth, better communication, low level of conflict and spending time with their wards could help the child to go through the tiresome process of divorce. This not only prevents the child from getting emotionally drained but he/she would exhibit higher self-esteem and better academic performance. 

Avoid Putting Children in the Middle:

A child should not be made to choose between his/her parents in a fight, moreover the child should not be involved in any of the parental disputes. It might give off the message that one parent is less appropriate than the other. A child needs both his mother and father as they fulfill different roles in a child’s life. You are depriving them of their chance for living a peaceful and happy life. Children who are caught up between the conflicts of their parents, they are more likely to experience anxiety and depression in later stages of their lives.

Empower Your Children:

It is normal to assume that kids would find it difficult to cope up with the separation of their parents and think they are not mentally strong enough to understand and move on from the situation. This could very well lead to the children experiencing mental health issues in their childhood as well as in their adulthood. The parents should help them by being available for the children and taking their time out to understand and support their children during the hard time. 

Teaching Coping Skills:

Children with coping strategies like cognitive restructuring skills or problem-solving skills would be able to adapt with the divorce better than the children who have not developed the skills. So the parents should try to educate their children with these skills to help them cope up with the situation more effectively.

Help Them Feel Safe and Secure:

It wouldn't come as a surprise that the children would feel that they would be abandoned by their parents because of the divorce which would lead the child experiencing anxiety. By helping your kid feel loved, accepted, safe and secure, the parents could decrease the chances of the child to be diagnosed with mental health issues in future. 

Get Professional Help:

There are many ways by which the parents can be prepared to handle their children in situations like separation and divorce. Many programs are available who help reduce the impact of the divorce on the children. Parents are taught various co-parenting skills and strategies which would help the child with the new adjustments in their life. They can also practice self-care and go to therapy to reduce their own pent up frustration and stress, as it tends to reflect on their behaviour which eventually is observed by the children. 


About the Author

Fiza Abbas

I recently completed my honours degree in Social Sciences and Humanities from Ambedkar University Delhi. Here, an o

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