Seeing their parent’s marriage crumble can be devastating for a child of any age. Children are traumatized by the thought of losing their secure and loving home. More than the spouses, it is the children who are affected the most by divorce.
Many times children are plagued with thoughts of what will happen to them or who will take care of them after their parents separate. The absence of one of the parents, after the divorce goes through, increases the feeling of loneliness in the child. Shocking statistics reveal that almost half of all American children will witness their parent’s marriage breaking up before they reach the age of ten.
Worse still many of these children will also see their parent’s second marriage ending up in divorce. Besides creating extreme insecurity, divorce can cause many other physical and emotional problems in the child. Through this article we will examine some of the common effects of divorce on children.
A change in family setup following a divorce can create feelings of extreme grief, sadness and frustration in children. Most children who have witnessed their parents divorce, may initially show a lack of interest in daily activities. They may even begin to shun their friends and turn into a recluse often spending hours locked up inside their bedroom. They may also show sullenness and disinclination to engage in conversation with their parents. Some children even exhibit manic, reckless behavior and reach a stage where they become uncontrollable.
Children whose parents have recently been divorced may exhibit excessive amounts of anger. This anger may either be directed at others or in certain cases even at themselves. Sometimes this period of extreme anger can last for a short while or in very rare cases it may last for several years. Shouting, breaking objects and violent behavior are some of the ways the older children display their anger. Younger children whose parents have parted ways may display their anger by breaking toys or through acts of extreme mischief.
Frequent Bouts of Guilt
Children especially the younger ones who are seeing their parents go through a particularly acrimonious divorce may be seized by episodes of guilt. These children are so young that they are unable to reason out that their parent’s decision to part ways is in no way based on any particular unreasonable behavior they may have shown in the past. Very young children even suspect that their parents are separating because they are angry with them. It is very important that the parents sit down with their children and assure them that their decision is not influenced by any mistake their children may have made in the recent past.
Destructive behavior is extremely common in children who are witnessing their parents going their separate ways. Initially the destructive behavior may be displayed at home by breaking small artifacts or even destroying their personal items. Later these children may take their destructive ways outside their homes and may take to destroying public property.
Older children particularly teenagers display extreme defiance when they realize that their parents are going to separate. These sudden episodes of extreme defiance could be a way of hiding the inner emotional turmoil they are experiencing. Defiance could also be a way of expressing anger at their inability to sort out the problems between the parents. Shouting back at the parents, breaking rules or even skipping school are some of the common acts of defiance that children normally resort to.
Self Imposed Isolation
Some children do not make any outwardly display of their anger but instead internalize all their sadness and go into some kind of self imposed isolation. They may lock themselves in their bedrooms for hours on end refusing to meet or speak with their friends and family. It is more dangerous when a child begins to withdraw in this manner from society as there are chances that they may even start contemplating about extreme measures like suicide.
Resentment towards the Parents
Some kids may harbor extreme resentment towards their parents. They may stop talking to their parents completely. Angry and often hurtful remarks are exchanged with the parents, as this is just a child’s way of showing how hurt and left out they feel by the divorce. Often when one of their parents remarries, the child may begin to lash out at the step parent.
Problems with Peers
Children from broken homes are twice as likely to have problems with their peers as kids who come from a stable and secure family background. The increased sadness, anxiety, loneliness and insecurity are some of the reasons why these children may experience difficulty in making friends. Children whose parents are getting divorced my also pick up frequent fights with their peers on very small issues.
Declining School Performance
Bombarded with some extremely cruel remarks from their peers, children who are otherwise academically bright may stop taking interest in the studies. Their marks begin to plummet as they are unable to cope with the problems at home and the questions they have to face at school. Most often a child’s self esteem takes such a blow that they are not able to concentrate on their studies.
Early or Increased Sexual Activity
A few children who want to get away from all the anger that may be building up in their home front may end up staying away from the home and hanging out with the wrong crowd. There is a tendency for children from divorced families to experiment with sex at an earlier age and may also have more than one sexual partner. The reason for early or increased sexual activity among children from broken homes is because they feel they are getting affection and attention from people which they are missing out from their parents.
Drug and Alcohol Abuse
As a means of finding solace and escaping from the pressures which are building up in the home front, some children whose parents are on the verge of divorce may take to drugs and alcohol. Initial experimentations with drugs and alcohol may soon turn into full blown addictions.
Photo Credit: Marriage101.org