When working through a divorce, many people may think of the hardships the parents must be going through and the difficulties of navigating a divorce with children. However, some may not realize that children may be more affected on the inside than they appear on the outside. Oftentimes, this sadness, confusion, and anger manifests itself into aggression, sensitivity, and even potential disorders. Here are just a few of the psychological consequences of divorce with children.

Attitude and Behavior

The most important thing for parents to understand is that divorce affects children at all ages, from young children to teenagers. As children get older, their attitudes shift from confusion to guilt, then to anger. Something parents may see a pattern of are problems regulating behavior and emotions. These behaviors are known as externalizing behaviors and encompass:

  • physical aggression,
  • cheating,
  • stealing, and
  • destroying property

If these behaviors are pervasive and are growing worse, they can be classified as symptoms of conduct disorders which include:

  • Conduct disorder
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder and
  • Intermittent Explosive Disorder

But the question you may ask yourself is: when does lying, stealing, cheating, and fighting become a disorder? As the DSM-IV explains, something qualifies for a disorder when it falls in the 4Ds of abnormality: deviance, danger, distress, and dysfunction.

Emotions and Mental Health

During a divorce with children, trouble regulating emotions may manifest as anger and irritability. This happens because children don’t know how to process the emotions they feel from the divorce, leading to a feeling of being overwhelmed and out of control, which can result in anger. This goes hand in hand with emotional sensitivity, which is feeling overwhelmed by all these new emotions they’re experiencing that it makes them sensitive to every emotion they experience as well.

Another consequence of divorce with children is the development of mental health problems. Depression is a growing epidemic among children, especially among children experiencing divorce. There are many different types of depression, but what they all have in common is:

  • Depressed mood: a depressed mood out of proportion to any cause and
  • Anhedonia: a loss of interest in things that you were previously interested in or that gave you joy

In children, depression tends to shows up as irritability more than sadness. Anxiety is also common among children of divorce, and can go hand in hand with depression. The two biggest subcategories are:

  • Separation anxiety, which includes:
    • Increased crying and clinginess
  • Generalized Anxiety, which they likely don’t meet full criteria for. This includes:
    • Uncontrollable worry about a variety of things and
    • Symptoms like:
      • Restlessness
      • Becoming easily fatigued
      • Difficulty concentrating and
      • Irritability

What You Can Do to Help During A Divorce With Children

So, what can parents do to help their children during divorce? The best thing is to be supportive. This includes spending intentional one-on-one time with your children and being attentive to both their emotional and mental needs. Parents should also talk to their children about what divorce is, what it means, and how it is or isn’t going to affect certain areas of their lives. This will be most effective if you have a plan for how you’re going to tell your child and assure them that the divorce has nothing to do with their behavior

Another important thing parents can do for their children is co-parent peacefully, and don’t put their children in the middle of their problems. Stress and hostility in the home can lead to increased behavioral problems in children. Putting a child in the middle of your issues can also make them feel like they have to pick sides, which can lead to or worsen depression and anxiety.

Another crucial thing to understand is that your children may need support that’s beyond your abilities. It’s normal for children to react to divorce with confusion, anger, and sadness, but if it’s persistent and doesn’t go away after some time, seek help for your child. Attending individual therapy for your child, meaning one on one therapy, would be beneficial as well as family therapy, which includes the entire family and how it functions as a system.

Overall… A Divorce With Children is HARD

So, although divorce with children is extremely difficult for two parents to navigate, it is crucial that children are not forgotten about during these difficult times. The stress, confusion, and guilt brought on by divorce can lead to detrimental consequences on children’s mental health and well-being.

Need Legal Help?

Looking for legal representation? Not sure if hiring an attorney is the right thing for you? Consider reaching out to our attorneys here at the Colorado Lawyer Team for a free 30-minute consultation. With specialties in family law and criminal law, our experienced, dedicated, and hard-working attorneys may just be the representation you need! Find more information at https://CoLawTeam.com or call 970.670.0378.

Interested in learning more about divorce with children? Check out our previous blog post about divorce rates and COVID-19 here.

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