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What are common reactions by children to their parents’ divorce?

On Behalf of | Aug 10, 2023 | Divorce |

If you and your spouse are considering divorce and have children, you no doubt worry about how they will take the news. Many couples stay together for this reason despite knowing their relationship no longer works. But studies have shown that staying together for the sake of the kids is rarely a good situation for anyone, especially children.

Be prepared to help your kids cope

If you are considering divorce or have already begun the process, the last thing you want is to create distress for your children. Much of how they react depends on their age and the level of conflict with your spouse. Psychologists say it’s essential to understand these emotions and offer reassurance:

  • Fear: Kids will likely be anxious over what divorce means for them. Will they have to move? Will they lose access to one parent? Explain to them what will stay the same and what will change, but don’t make any promises you can’t keep.
  • Sadness: Grief can overwhelm children if they feel their world is ending. Tell them you’re still a family despite living under two roofs.
  • Anger: Kids may blame either parent or both for the marriage ending. Much of this may come from a feeling of helplessness. Be honest and explain that you both did everything possible to make the marriage work but decided that living apart is best for everyone.
  • Guilt: Some children blame themselves for the divorce, thinking it must be because of something they’ve done or haven’t done. They may even believe they have to choose one parent over the other. Reassure them that both of you love them, and they will never have to choose.
  • Relief: If you had a highly stressful, unstable or violent marriage, your kids may feel a sense of great comfort over the divorce. But understand that they’ll likely experience a wide range of emotions and need continued support.

In some cases, divorce can make children feel isolated, and they can become withdrawn. They can also experience sleep disorders and behavioral issues if their feelings aren’t addressed. You can help ease this transition by staying involved and working with your co-parent. This includes encouraging them to spend time with the other parent and avoiding negative comments.