What Your Child May Be Experiencing during Your Divorce
Divorce is an emotional process. Years of love, matrimony and memories all brushed aside for what are all-too-often heated exchanges where the two protagonists suck in their friends, family and worst of all children. However, once the dust settles and the two parties move on the lingering effects are often forgotten about. Today, in a society where half of all marriages are ending in divorce and around a quarter of all children under the age of 16 are living with a step-parent, it has never been a more important time to consider, understand and ultimately identify the consequences divorces can have on your children. Here’s what you can expect to see.
Children under 10:
Children under 10 years old are, generally speaking, the generation where divorce shows the smallest signs of long-term behavioural change. In fact, for the very young, studies have shown that children who bear no memories of the divorce actually show no emotional changes or connections to the event years later. However, it is worth bearing in mind that because these children possess no memories of the divorce, it is near impossible to accurately judge the effects. Thus far, though, science has determined this age group to be barely phased by the phenomena, but it’s certainly one to keep an eye on as technology improves and the findings get better. As children age, between the ages of 5 and 10, one thing is clear: the child yearns for attention. The reason for this is down to a fear of abandon as the loss of one parent from the solid family unit they have been brought up to love and respect makes them abjectly fear the loss of the other parent. This often comes hand in hand with an unusual sleeping pattern and a noticeable decrease in self-esteem – possibly caused by the assumption that they are the reason the one parent has left. These effects prove to be temporary, though, and there is no immediate cause for alarm if you see your child behaving this way.
Children between the Ages of 10 and 14:
This age bracket will commonly display a more extreme reaction, though very similar to that of their younger counterparts. Often, they will neglect to believe the truth and act out make-believe fantasies where the one parent has not actually left and everything is at it was before the divorce. As they have a much greater understanding of the situation than the generation before them, they will see the changes and be able to consider the contributing factors behind them more deeply. Unfortunately, it is very often the case that because of this they have a heavier assumption that it is their fault and will react with temper-tantrums and sulking. As with children their junior, though, these effects are temporary, and once the new situation (or living arrangements) become the norm, they will revert back to their earlier behaviour.
The Puberty Years:
When children hit puberty, reaching their early teens up until about 16 or 17 the effects divorce can have are some of the most severe. At this age, many would have experienced their first escapades into love themselves and generally have a much deeper understanding of love, marriage and family. Also, as the child is more mature parents more often than not go to them for more comforting than they would their younger counterparts and so the distress their parents are feeling is upfront and blatant. Moreover, statistically, children whose parents have divorced when they are going through puberty are much more likely to engage in sexual activity at a young age and have a markedly increased level of sexual promiscuity. The off-shoot of this sort of activity, combined with the blatant emotional turmoil their parents have displayed can leave a lingering fear of commitment. In the worst cases this can last for years, and it has even been known to reoccur through adulthood in the most severe examples of the phenomenon. Unfortunately, the main cause of this is the fact that witnessing the breakdown of what was the most steadfast and forthright component in the child’s upbringing calls into question their own abilities, and they will inevitably assume that the same unhappy fate awaits them in later life.
Teenagers and Young Adults:
As the age group progresses we see a sudden change in the effects. Unlike the pubescent teenagers beforehand, teenagers between around 16 and 21 will show a marked decrease in their involvement in the process. As they are now old enough to understand more-so the complicated intricacies that constitutes love and life they will understand that they are not to blame. Therefore, their own personal feelings are removed from the equation as they do their best to bolster who they see as the jilted party. Occasionally, aggressive angry outbursts may be experienced, especially to whomever they see as the guilty party, but it has been shown that this often lasts no longer than a few weeks, or months in the worst cases.
Fundamentally, it should always be remembered that divorce effects everyone differently; no matter what the age. This list is just meant as a rough guide to understand how your children may react depending on their age.
This guest post is contributed by David Williamson of Coles Solicitors located in York, UK. He is an experienced legal writer and often likes to write on family law or divorce related topics. You can reach him on twitter.