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The impact of divorce and separation on a family

Divorce and Separation is an emotional time that often create stress and turmoil for all those involved. The divorce rate is at a all time high with 50% of all marriages ending in divorce. The decision to divorce or separate from someone who you expected to spend a lifetime with can create feelings of anger, depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, or even relief. Once the decision is made the legal proceedings, moving, division of property, financial changes, and custody arrangements creates continued frustration and animosity between parents. As parents balanced the separation, emotional turmoil, and legal conflict it is challenging and sometimes a daily struggle.

While divorce is difficult to manage between parents there are often other victims of divorce and separation which are the children. Children are viewed as resilient beings when it comes to dealing with change and coping with trauma. While this is true this does not negate the psychological affects children experience when their parents’ divorce or separate. Each child is unique in their emotional response to divorce and separation but some common emotional and behavioral reactions included denial, abandonment, anger, depression, and acting out. In addition some of the short term effects of divorce on children include lower academic achievement, social adjustment difficulty, lower self-concept, and perceived parental loss. Divorces can be ugly and essentially destroy a child’s entire world. Children need to be emotionally and psychologically cared for in times of divorce and separation. As parents along with balancing your needs and adjusting to change you must be cognizant of your children’s needs and adjustment to change.

The reason for divorce varies from couple to couple. It is up to parents to determine appropriate interaction with their former spouse. Children often continue to care about both parents and desire to have a relationship/attachment with both parents. This can be difficult if parent’s interaction includes conflict and places children in the middle of adult issues. In order to address your children’s emotional needs having one on one quality time, telling the truth, acknowledging their feelings, active listening, and patience is extremely important. Children need this from both parents. Consistency and structure make it easier for children to cope with separation because they see that their parents are okay and have a unified front. Compromise with your former spouse while, at times can be difficult, is necessary to co-parent effectively. If you find yourself locked in a battle with your former spouse step back and remember the purpose at hand is making sure your children’s needs are a priority.

Divorces is a challenging time for all those involved but it is important to know you are not alone and there are ways to cope with your feeling’s and help your children verbalize and manage theirs.

Jasmine Wynn, MSW, LSW

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Center for Child Development
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