Effects of Divorce on Children and Families: What it Does and How to Help

 

Effects of divorce on children and families. Each person goes through their own individual experiences and has a way to deal with situations. I personally have been through a rough divorce, the negative effects were prevalent, I was lost and was unsure where to start and where do I go with my 6-year-old daughter. Even though at that point I was baffled and was going through many mixed emotional feelings mostly of anger and despair, my parents surrounded me with positive energy and were my greatest support. My family took care of me and my daughter and were there for me to help me deal with all my emotional and personal issues.

If you know someone who is going through a rough divorce, they need to talk to a family member and get emotional support. During tough times, most people going through brutal divorce are more vulnerable and tend to make hasty decisions that are mostly regretted later. If you feel like the stress of the divorce and all that comes with it is too much to handle, talk to a specialist. You may not be able to solve everything in a day, but talking to someone who is removed from the situation may help you deal with your divorce.

effects of divorce on children and families

Effects of divorce on children and families

Relationships are like waves, we have some good days and some bad days, but the ramifications of each situation reshapes our personalities and modify our thought process. In today’s very independent world, many marriages end in divorce, and the negative effects of divorce on children and families are prevalent. Depending on the nature of the divorce, each couple has a different way of going about the divorce. While one couple may be able to have a relatively amicable divorce, another may spend years sorting out legal issues. Whatever the situation, divorces can be brutal, and many studies by psychologists have noted the negative effects of divorce on children and families result in a consistent change in the psychological and emotional nature of an individual, which further alters their social and personal life at a time when they may need stability.

According to National Center for Health Statistics, the rate of divorce in 2014 was 6.9%  per 1000 of the total population, in contrast to an 8.2% in the year 2000. So why are the psychologists, counselors, and psychiatrist more concerned when the rates have declined? The fact is due to the tools available to us in the field of research, the negative effects of divorce on children and families are more amplified today than ever.

Effects of divorce on children and families: Women

Most couples marry with the idea of getting their “happily ever after”, but it’s clear with the high divorce rates that this doesn’t always happen. Divorces affect everyone differently, and many women see a change in their psychological state. This may be exacerbated by the extra stress of caring for her children while dealing with a divorce (although this is not always the case) or having to bare deal with the seemingly constant problems that arise during a divorce. In many cases, emotional and financial stress are the two biggest problems for women going through a divorce.

  • Financial Effect:  “The Effect of Marriage and Divorce on Women’s Economic Well-Being”, an article published in 1999 in the “American Sociological Review”, stated that the average divorced woman has a more limited monetary support than an average married woman, consequently leaving women in a state where they never fully recover from the financial setback, until they remarry.
  • Emotional Effect: An article published in 2006 by Journal of Health and Social Behavior, “The Short-Term and Decade-Long Effects of Divorce on Women’s Midlife Health” stated that divorced women reported significantly higher psychological distress levels than married women in the years following the divorce. Juggling between making ends meet and trying to sort her life, a woman is evidently going to go through an emotional roller coaster, feelings of unhappiness, loneliness, and depression surround her. These negative feelings could further cloud a woman’s judgment leading her to find support in alcohol or sometimes even drugs.

Women are generally thought to be more emotional than men, and after going through a divorce and seeing how someone they once loved and seemingly do so much damage may make it harder for her to trust in the future. These trust issues will not only extend to potential partners or men in general but may even cause her to second-guess her own decisions and doubt herself.

Effects of divorce on children and families: Men

Some people may not believe it to be true, but it’s been said that men have a harder time dealing with divorce than women (although this does depend on the details surrounding the divorce). It’s thought that this may be caused by the cultural norm of men keeping to themselves and not talking about their emotions. In the article ‘3 Reasons Divorce is Harder on Men than Women’ published in The Huffington Post in 2013,  men going through a divorce tend to suffer from depression because they don’t know how to express the loss they’re feeling.

According to ‘Psychological and Emotional Aspects of Divorce’ an article published in 1997 by Kathleen Corcoran, men have issues dealing with emotional adjustments because they relate a divorce as loss of intimacy, reduced finances, loss of social connection, and possibly as though they are losing their children.

As stated above in regards to self-esteem and trust issues, like women, men also go through similar emotions and have issues trusting women. Even though this fact is true for men going through a bad divorce, men are still known to remarry quicker than women.

Effects of divorce on children and families: Children

Marital instability has a greater effect on young children than on adults. The negative effect of divorce in children are long lasting and are also observed in their own intimate relationships.

Children also go through major behavior issues, low school performances, anger issues and poor social skills. Some of the negative divorce consequences are due to the transition a child has to make between a 2 home family, financial custody and emotional support.

Researchers have suggested that bad divorces have an effect on a child’s school performances such as low school grades and aggressive behavior with their peers. In many cases, teenage children even drop out of school and get into drugs.  It has also been studied that these negative effects are more evident in boys than in girls. Boys tend to have greater issues when dealing with broken homes, they reflect more aggressive behavior and are less focused in school, resulting in fights with peers. Girls on the other hand exhibit higher rates of depression which hinder their concentration level at school and otherwise.

Besides low school performances, children also go through low self-esteem, poor judgment, anxiousness, high feelings of insecurity and extreme pain. Depending on a child’s age and family relations, negative attitude may vary and in some cases may not even very prominent.  

Effects of divorce on children and families

Effects of divorce on children and families: How to help

What can you do for yourself?

I know what you are feeling and I also know life isn’t easy ( I was you not too long ago) but you need to step up and take a lead in your life. Here are some helpful tips that will make you feel better and get you up and going once again and prevent some of the negative effects of divorce on children and families.

  • You are important: Reminding yourself that it’s not your fault and that you have nothing to feel guilty about is essential. You might feel like you’re surrounded by darkness and negativity, but take a step back and look at the bigger picture. This period of your life won’t last forever. It’s temporary, and there are so many things to look forward to. Let yourself be happy and hopeful, and always remind yourself that it will be okay in the end.
  • Surround yourself with people you love: With everything that’s going on, you might feel like you want to hide away and stay away from people, but having a support system is important for making it through. If you can’t talk to loved ones, think about getting some professional help. You might find that talking through what you’re going through will help you organize your thoughts and see what’s really important. Also, social relationships are shown to help lower stress and anxiety symptoms, so surround yourself with love whenever you can.
  • Eat well and stay motivated: You are responsible for your own well-being, and having this responsibility in your life when you feel like you have control over so little can be empowering. You have to be your own motivation and get yourself to eat well, sleep well, and get the exercise you need. You may not be up for running miles on end, but you can try dancing, go to yoga, or anything else that gets you moving. Take care of yourself, and stay away from substances that will hurt you in the long run, like drugs or alcohol.
  • Take up a new hobby: Take the time to learn something you’ve always wanted to do, or spend time doing something you love doing. If you’ve always loved painting, get yourself new brushes and let yourself paint. If you love music, allow yourself to really appreciate music. You have the time and ability to do anything you want!

What can you do for your kids?

Kids and divorce can be especially tricky. They may be having a hard time, but aren’t sure how to express themselves, which results in poor academic performance or behavioral problems. Even though your children may not be talking to you about their feelings, try to use your intuition to know how they’re feeling. My 6-year-old daughter, for example, went for quite a while without sharing her feelings with anyone. Children have stronger feelings and their needs are more wanting. Here are tips to help your children cope with a divorce.

  • Open conversation: Spend time with your kids, take them to happy places and be a listener. Your children need you. Just like you need a listener, they need someone too. You as a parent are closest to your kids. Let them know that you love them. If they still don’t open up, think about seeing a specialist who can help them share how they’re feeling. It is important that they don’t feel guilty for the situation.
  • Keep routines as much as possible: Divorce with children means a world of changes. They’ll be going from a family to a single-parent household, they might have to move houses, and some kids might even have to move schools, which also means making new friends. There are so many changes happening in their life that they need to feel a sense of security and stability. In a time where you’re not feeling either of those things, you need to be a rock for them. Let them know you are there for them and will help them cope with any difficulties. Take them to see their friends more often, surround them with love and loved ones.
  • Start a new activity: Pick a hobby that you both enjoy. It could be as simple as going out to the movies or playing a game on the computer together. Just knowing you are there for your kids will help them with their emotions.

 

Puja is a 2nd year Child and Human Developmental Psychology student at Teachers College, Columbia University, New York City. She also has a B.A in Speech and Language Sciences and has gained experience within the field from London, U.K.
Puja is very passionate about making a difference and spreading the awareness to educate the general public. Her goal is to reach out to as many people as she can, she strongly believes that education has the ability to cause a positive ripple effect.