Divorce doesn’t just happen to a couple. It happens to everyone around them as well, including their children. When parents decide a divorce is the best solution for them, they will likely consider how it will affect their children.
Sometimes parents think that if they wait for their child to get older, the child will be able to handle the divorce better. It’s second nature for parents to want to make sure their children are protected, but staying in an unhappy marriage may cause more harm than good for the child. Research has shown that marriage is not the key to raising happy, healthy children.
If you are thinking about waiting to get a divorce, it’s important to understand how age can affect your child’s reaction to divorce.
Effects of a Divorce and Child’s Age
There is no way to know exactly how your child will react to your divorce. However, there is research that shows how they typically will handle it. Your child’s age is one of the most significant indicators of how they will react.
Divorcing with Infants
Infants can sense tension even though they don’t understand why there is conflict happening. Since they cannot speak how they are feeling, they will express it through their emotions. This can lead to them becoming irritable and showing signs of delayed development. Therefore, it is vital that they have some routine in place during the divorce process.
Divorcing with Toddlers & Preschoolers
Toddlers and preschoolers react similarly to divorce. They rely heavily on their parents during this stage of their life, and when a significant life event like a divorce happens, they can have trouble accepting or understanding what is happening. They are very aware of their parents fighting and can act out in response. Due to this, they will likely experience emotional trauma. Toddlers may feel like they are the cause of their parents fighting, and that their parents will abandon in this time.
Divorcing parents should make sure there is a consistent routine that the child can follow. Parents should also make sure they spend quality time with their children, as well as help the child express their feelings.
Divorcing with Elementary School-Age Children
At this point, children have witnessed their parents being together for years and can see the significance of their family as one. Therefore, divorce can be significantly traumatizing for children in elementary.
Young school-age children (5 to 8 year-olds) can feel like their parents are abandoning them, and will often believe that their parents will get back together. For older school-age children (8-12), they might blame one parent for causing the divorce, resulting in them aligning themselves with the parent they see as “good.” At this age, children may start to feel angry, anxious, withdrawn, or depressed. They may begin to experience physical symptoms, like an upset stomach or headache due to the stress they feel.
Children in elementary need to be in an environment that allows them to be children still. They shouldn’t experience any of the conflicts their parents are going through as it can harm their relationship with both parents. They should feel comfortable talking to their parents about their feelings during this time. However, it is okay if they don’t want to talk to their parents. Rather encourage them to speak to someone who they can trust like a friend, school counselor, or therapist.
Divorcing with Adolescence Children
Adolescents are experiencing many changing emotions. This is an important time in a teen’s life, where they are beginning to create their own identities and enter adulthood. When they experience their parents go through a divorce, it can feel like their whole life is being turned upside down.
Teens are likely to show signs of stress, trouble sleeping, behavioral problems at school, academic problems, increased stress and anxiety, and may turn to substance abuse. Teens may feel very unsafe and insecure in their relationships with family, friends, and themselves during this time. It’s especially important that parents learn to get along and develop a co-parenting strategy. This will help ease the uncertainty that your teen may be feeling in this time.
Is There a Right Time?
There is no ideal time to get divorced. However, if two parents are unhappy and frustrated in their marriage, they can struggle with parenting their children. For example, they might start to neglect their child’s needs and emotions because they are too focused on their own problems.
Additionally, when parents want to get divorced, but decide to wait, they are forced to hide their problems from their children. This can result in tension, not only from you and your spouse but your children as well. Your children might begin to feel like they are the problem in the situation.
Getting a divorce might be the best option to keep your children from experiencing the pain and turmoil that stems from your relationship. Instead, you and your spouse can work on a co-parenting plan that will allow your children to transition through this time.
We Can Help
If you and your partner choose to get divorced, you should ensure that your family’s needs are taken care of. Advocate Law Firm, P.A. can help you through your divorce as well as help you create a custody plan with your spouse. This is a hard time for not only you but your children as well, and we are here to make sure your rights are protected during the process.
Call us today at (863) 644-5566 if you need an advocate in your divorce!