Many parents who face divorce share concern over the effect their divorce could have on their children. There is no denying that children usually thrive with routine and stability, which are usually impacted by divorce. However, most children fare better than parents expect them to fare.
Some factors that might contribute to the effect divorce has on a child include the amount of parental conflict before, during and after the divorce. Other factors may include the child’s developmental stage, the child’s personality and the custody arrangement.
Most negative effects are short lived
Most kids experience some negative effects of divorce in the short term. These effects can include anxiety, anger, shock, sadness and others. Some children withdraw, lash out or exhibit regressive behaviors. However, these negative effects rarely last more than two years.
Parental conflict can be especially harmful to kids
Parental conflict during and after divorce can be some of the biggest factors that affect the severity of a child’s reaction. Almost all parents fight now and then. However, parental conflict that involves yelling, verbal insults, physical aggression, threats or withdrawal can be distressing to a child and make it harder for the child to cope. Children who witness significant parental conflict may also develop poor conflict resolution skills and may have added difficulties in their future intimate relationships.
An unexpected divorce may cause additional problems
However, there are some indications that children who are exposed to significant parental conflict before divorce may adjust better than children who experience only low levels before divorce. This does not mean parental conflict before divorce is good for the child. It seems to be more likely that the conflict before divorce makes the news of divorce a little more expected. For some kids, it may even feel like a relief.
A UCLA study revealed that children who experienced an unexpected divorce were 6% less likely to graduate from high school. They are also 15% less likely to graduate from college than children with married parents. These effects may disproportionately affect children of wealthy, well-educated and well-planned families.
Families that are wealthy, well-educated and well-planned are expected to be the most stable, but this stability may have a downside. Children in stable families may end up being blindsided by their parent’s divorce, which can allow the divorce to have a greater effect on them.
With this in mind, you may want to pay special attention to how you tell your kids about your divorce and make sure they have the support systems they need to cope. You may also consider taking proactive steps to continue providing a stable environment for your kids both during and after your divorce. Some ways to do this, include prioritizing your children’s needs when setting the custody arrangement and minimizing parental conflict during and after your divorce.