The controversy continues to rage regarding the long term effects of divorce on children. Many people believe that a divorce will relieve children of the daily hazards that the battleground of their parents' marriage brings them. Others feel that divorce harms children much more than a tumultuous marriage does. Psychologists and psychiatrists continue to weigh in on this hot topic.
Statistics on Long Term Effects of Divorce on Children
The numbers are staggering. According to the Heritage Organization each year, over one million American children are affected by divorce, and half of the children who are born this year will experience the divorce of their parents by the time they reach 18 years of age. The statistics also weigh in on the long term effects of divorce on children.
- Children whose parents have divorced are increasingly the victims of abuse. They exhibit more health, behavioral, and emotional problems, are involved more frequently in crime and drug abuse, and have higher rates of suicide.
- Children of divorced parents perform more poorly in reading, spelling, and math. They also are more likely to repeat a grade and to have higher drop-out rates and lower rates of college graduation.
- Families with children that were not poor before the divorce see their income drop as much as 50 percent. Almost 50 percent of the parents with children that are going through a divorce move into poverty after the divorce.
- Religious worship, which has been linked to better health, longer marriages, and better family life, drops after the parents divorce.
An exploration on the ramifications of divorce that was conducted by Sara Eleoff at The Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine in November 2003 found the following developmental considerations of children:
- Ages 3-5: Children are likely to exhibit a regression of the most recent developmental milestone achieved. They may also have sleep disturbances and an escalating fear of separation from the custodial parent. There is usually a great deal of yearning for the non-custodial parent.
- Ages 6-8: They will often openly grieve for the non-custodial parent. Children at this age often have fantasies that their parents will happily reunite in the not-so-distant future, and they have an especially difficult time with the concept of the permanence of the divorce.
- Ages 8-11: Anger and a feeling of powerlessness are the primary emotional responses in this age group. Because of their grief,. These children tend to label a good parent and a bad parent. These children may be easily manipulated to take sides with one parent against another.
- Ages 12-18: Teens and preteens respond to divorce in a variety of methods, often exhibiting depression, rebellion, and even suicidal thoughts. They may spend time judging one parent over the other and become anxious about their future.
No matter the consequences, divorce is often inevitable, so how can children learn to cope? Parents can play a key role in heading off the long term effects of divorce on children. There are several steps you can take to help your child survive divorce, no matter what age children you might have.
- Communicate with your child-Communication is the key. However, don't go overboard. Don't keep your kids in the dark in regards to anything that directly affects them. In the same respect, don't give them too much information about the details or reasons for the divorce, which will lead to more stress. Trust me…they don't want to know everything!
- Be your child's parent, not her friend-It's easy for a parent to fall into a pattern of making their kids their confidantes. Let your kids be kids. Talk to friends and relatives about your fears, problems, and any other issues concerning the divorce…not your kids.
- Seek professional help-Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your child is to get counseling…for everyone. You can search for family counseling or look for separate counselors for you and your child. If you aren't satisfied with the results, move on to a new counselor.
- Find support groups-Area churches and mental health agencies often offer divorce support classes for children and parents to attend together or separately.
Finally, there are numerous sources available to help you protect your child against the problems associated with divorce. Don't be afraid to reach out for help. The way you handle your divorce today will have a direct bearing on the long term affects for your child's future.