How Divorce Affects Children's Mental Health

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Marriage has been a cornerstone of our society for generations. It is a contract that can help hold a family together. It safeguards and enables children to grow up with parents living together in one home. Despite the fact that one main purpose of a partnership is to nurture and protect children, a study reported that four in ten first marriages in Canada end up in divorce.

Psychological Effects on Children

Divorce may be a stressful period between the parents, but it also interrupts the children’s normal developmental sequence, especially regarding their mental health. Regardless of gender, age, and culture, children of divorced parents have shown an increased risk of psychological problems, including the following:

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  • Depression - Depression is a mental health problem seen in some children who witness the divorce of their parents. During the proceedings, children can feel anguish and heartbreak, which could result in social withdrawal. In some cases, the split could also put children at risk of developing certain mental illnesses.

  • Anxiety - Children from divorced families can feel anxious, tense, and nervous. This is especially true in young children because they are more dependent on their parents. Anxiety can affect their academic performance and make them lose interest in their favorite activities.

  • Mood Swings and Irritability - Children can also experience sudden mood swings and become irritable when interacting with people. These negative feelings may be directed at different perceived causes. While processing the effects of a parental split, children can also feel anger towards their parents, friends, and other peers.

  • Hopelessness and Disillusion - Feelings of hopelessness and disillusionment may be experienced by your children due to stress or lack of emotional support from parents. This problem may worsen over time. If they are raised by a single parent, the challenges can be quite significant.

Protecting Your Children from the Effects of Divorce

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Parents should understand how stressful divorce can be to children. While there is nothing easy about a breakup, there are several steps to take to support and show your love. These efforts will help children cope with the consequences of the dissolution of a marriage:

  • Active Communication - Having regular and constant communication with your children is crucial during and after the breakup. Establish balanced and healthy communication, reassuring your children that they are not responsible for the divorce.

  • Be Available for Emotional Support - Most kids require an emotional support system. This reduces the impact of emotional stress. Stay involved as parents and handle the divorce in a calm and rational manner to help children mitigate the adverse effects.

  • Avoid Custody Disputes - Custody disputes are often long and chaotic legal spats settled in the court. This could be a stressful experience for children, especially if the court awards custody to only one parent. To prevent the agony of a drawn-out fight, nurture your children together (as lifetime partners in parenting) and seek mediation to establish a mutually-beneficial custody agreement.

Divorce is a bitter pill for both parents and children. You may need to a professional counsellor to help your family handle the situation in order to continue being attentive and loving parents to your children.

For professional divorce counselling in St. Albert, AB call Living Well by Design at (780) 246-8100, or contact us via our online contact form. Our licensed counsellors are trained to provide emotional support and guidance to help resolve the impact associated with divorce.

Wendy Hart