Last month, I was at the park with a family friend and her 4 children. She has just lost her husband, the father of her children. It happened that her fun-loving kids were trying to find playmates in some nearby bored kids but the later kept resisting the force to play or smile. My friend got interested in the scene these kids were creating and got closer to chat up with their mother to inquire about the cold mood of her kids. She opened up to the conversation and explained how she had gone through a divorce a year ago and how her kids are still suffering from the resulting effect – the stigma, the shattered memories of both parents together. I listened to them and was silently thankful that sunglasses were shielding my eyes, which were wide with awe. So what is effect of divorce on children?
Divorce harder for children than a parent’s death
I’ve never understood the competition among tragedies. Though, oftentimes we hear people comparing the effect of divorce on children to that of the death of a parent because of the trauma for the family involved. I will rightly say that divorce is worse than death, there’s no question. Why is because people don’t usually choose death. The present-day orphan is the child of divorce whose parents have actually abandoned. The present-day orphan possibly living in the home of either of the parent, will effectively be all alone because that parent is still struggling with the disorder of their own post-divorce life.
God said to the Israelites in Malachi 2:16: “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘does violence to the one he should protect,’ says the Lord Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful”. The Lord don’t tolerate divorce because it’s devastating to the people He loves so much. He wants us to have patience to keep a marriage together. Generally speaking, divorce is tremendously devastating to those involved, especially to the children.
God ordained the family to be the primary source for nurturing and raising children. When that family falls apart, it saddens Him. However, if upon the death of a parent, which is not something we can choose, God has provided means in which the victim can find solace (Jeremiah 49:11). Also, when a parent dies, people often struggle for the right words to offer the children left behind. They’ve always found the right words, not a single person can say a wrong thing. But for the case in which divorce is the cause of the disintegrated family, the children of divorce carries a traumatic experience during which their lives vastly change.
People do not consider the great effect of divorce on children when they take the path of divorce as their solution to their marital challenges. It would be sensible for all people to recognize the damage caused to the family by divorce. The children suffer more from short and long-term psychological effects.
Short term effect of divorce on children
Commonly, divorce has a short-term effect on children after which they fade away the moment the child has been able to adjust to the new family changes that have occurred around him/her. Listed are some of the reactions that might come from the child
- Depression may arise in that child or a sense of vulnerability as the family disintegrates;
- Extreme feelings of misery and loss of a non-custodial parent;
- Young children not old enough to understand the situation might have the feeling of guilt of being responsible for the divorce;
- Your child may become totally aggressive to people around;
- Your child may lose concentration which could affect academic performance;
- Feeling of intense anger towards both parents for splitting up;
- Out of fear of being abandoned, emotional needs may start occurring.
Long-Term effect of divorce on children
Long-term negative consequences are experienced by the children regardless of the ground the parents are accepting to divorce. However, there are a small number of cases where the effect may be long-term on. In such case, the children may more likely:
- Suffer from addictions to drug and/or alcohol;
- Be less accomplished in education since him/her drops out of school;
- Suffer the experience of divorce themselves;
- Display anti-social behavior and other communication problems;
- Be disadvantaged socio-economically, thereby living poor;
- Leave the home to get married or co-habit at an early age;
- Have sleep problems and complete withdrawals from loved activities.
Every child will react differently to the situation. It is possible for a child to continue acting normally in spite of the divorce.
Tips on how to improve the resulting effect of divorce on children
Parents should work hand-in-hand to create a safe and loving environment for their children if they decide to stay apart. This can decrease the short-term consequences of their action on their children, which in turn will minimize the long-term effects.
1. Let them know they’re not at fault
Some children after recollecting times they argued with their parents, or received poor grades may believe they had something to do with the divorce. In order to help them change this misconception, you should be patient in setting the record straight and reassure your children that they are responsible for the divorce.
2. Give encouragement and love
Your words, actions, and ability to remain consistent are all important tools to reassure them because children have a remarkable ability to heal when given the support and love they need. Be close to them and be honest when telling them it’ll be okay because both parents will be there.
3. Help your child mourn the divorce
You can help your children grieve their loss and adjust to a new environment by helping them express their feelings. To them, divorce feels like an intense loss of the life they knew, so help them find words for their emotional state.
4. Provide a perfect structure and stability
As a divorced parent, it is your duty to help your child adjust to change by securing as much stability and structure as possible in their daily lives. This is achievable when you create some regular routines at each household, and steadily communicate to your children what to expect. This will make your children calm and stable.
5. Cope with your breakup and seek support
Take care of yourself so that you can be there for your kids. This is necessary. Divorce is complicated and can be devastating without support, so lean on friends, never vent ill-feelings to your child, go to God in prayer.
6. Agree with your ex
It’s essential to avoid putting your children in the middle of your fights or making them feel like they have to choose between you. The conflict between separated parents can be very damaging for children. Create a loving atmosphere for your kids when both of you meet in their presence.
In many ways, divorce is harder to overcome than the loss of a parent to death. Studies show that the impact of divorce can bring about physical, mental and spiritual depression on the children. Complete healing can come to children of divorce when they allow the wonderful grace of God to heal their wounds. Jesus Christ offers reassurance to those who are being hit by the grievous effects of divorce. The Bible encourages victims of divorce to continue their lives in hope of a healed future. There is hope in Christ Jesus for you and your family members.
2 Corinthians 4:8-10 says: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body”.