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Jul 20, 2015BY: Neil Grossman
IN: Children and Parenting Issues

The Children’s View of Divorce

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Child looks at the swearing parentsHow do children view their parents’ divorce?

Certainly, this depends on the age of the child. However, their view also reflects the amount of conflict between the parents, before, during and after the divorce.

I have worked with many children whose parents have divorced. They have related their stories to me. Children of all ages frequently think of divorce as the end of their family; that their family is being torn apart. They typically react with shock, followed by fear, anger and grief. They may feel a deep sadness, or they may become cynical about their own developing relationships.

Children fear divorce; it is the unknown. They may picture the worst. Young children are more likely to become frightened and threatened. They may be afraid that a parent will not be there to care for them, or they will lose the love of one parent. Children may be angry, venting that anger at the residential parent, while idealizing the non-residential parent who is not involved in daily routines and discipline. Children may feel helpless. Younger children may try to deny the divorce. In fact, many children have a fantasy or wish that their parents will eventually remarry each other and return the family to their once-happy status.

One fact is important to emphasize: divorce sends out shock waves, even when the children are adults. While children’s immediate reactions are likely determined by the shock of the news that their parents are divorcing, over time they usually develop a more balanced and inclusive impression.

But there also may be feelings of hope. Some children see the divorce as leading to better relationships for themselves and their parents, particularly if the parents were overtly angry toward each other or the family.

The ultimate view of the children will depend on how the divorce is handled by their parents. The children’s views will reflect the family’s transition and the extent to which the divorce interferes with parenting. In general, children are more likely to feel a loss if they do not continue to have a large amount of contact with both parents. Parents should know that staying in a marriage with high conflict for the sake of their children usually causes more problems in children then getting a divorce.

Most children adjust to divorce and go on to live healthy and happy lives. This is greatly assisted if the divorce is conducted in a civil and amicable manner.

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