Every year, roughly 1.5 million children in the United States witness their
parents divorce. Many parents believe their children will suffer a wide
range of emotional trauma during the process.
Will divorce hurt my child? How will divorce affect my kids? This is why we’ve all heard of couples who choose to stay in unhappy
marriages “for the kids.” However, studies have shown that
very few children experience serious problems after divorce – and
that there are ways to make the process easier on children.
Children Recover Faster Than Many Think
In 2001, a sociologist from Pennsylvania State University conducted a study
to determine the effects on children years after witnessing divorce. To
do so, he analyzed children who experienced the divorce process at different
ages. He assessed the following:
- Academic achievement
- Emotional problems
- Behavior problems
- Social relationships
The study proved that there were minimal differences between the children
of intact families and the children of divorce parents, suggesting that
most children tolerate divorce relatively well.
In 2002, E. Mavis Hetherington, a psychologist at the University of Virginia,
and Anne Michelle Elmore discovered that many children who witness their
parents’ divorce only suffer negative emotions immediately after
a divorce occurs. The duo found that feelings like shock, anger, and anxiety
usually decrease after the second year. In fact, only a small percentage
of children suffer emotional trauma beyond that two-year period.
Impact on Future Relationships?
Another worry that divorcing parents often have is that their children
will have a harder time developing their own relationships after watching
their parent’s marriage dissolve, or that they will have a negative
attitude towards relationships in general. Published research has shown,
however, that children with divorced parents experience the same relationship
longevity as children with parents who did not divorce.
Parents Can Make the Process Easier On Children
Although most children readjust well after a divorce, there are several
things parents can do to reduce the amount of distress children may experience.
In most cases, children move through the process feeling secure if parents
limit the amount of conflict that occurs during the divorce process and/or
minimize the children’s exposure to the conflict.
In addition, various research shows that parents can provide emotional
support to their children by addressing any questions or concerns their
children may have throughout the process. Check out our post on
Telling Your Children About Divorce for some tips.
If you are divorcing (or about to), here is how you can decrease negative
emotions for your children:
- Most importantly, avoid fighting about your kids, especially in front of
your kids. Avoid exposing them to any conflict between their parents.
- Don’t badmouth or limit access to the other parent. You should still
appear as a team to your child as much as possible. While in some cases
it may not be safe to expose a child to a parent (drug abuse, domestic
violence, etc.), it is still psychologically important not to disparage
your child’s relationship with the other parent.
- Try not to expose your children to adult worries like financial strain,
your personal emotional struggles, etc.
For more information, read our post on
How to Successfully Co-Parent After a Divorce.
Our Washington Divorce Lawyers Are Here for You
If you and your spouse are contemplating divorce and would like legal guidance
as you begin and move through the process, we encourage you to contact
our Washington divorce lawyers at McKinley Irvin. We believe in protecting
what our clients value most and safeguarding the well-being of their family.
To speak with a Washington divorce attorney right away, contact McKinley
Irvin to schedule a consultation.