Going Through a Divorce: A Child's Perspective

A few thoughts on children going through a divorce.

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Children usually feel a lot of pain and emotional conflict during and after divorce. Whether or not your children say it or show it, you can be sure they are deeply affected by the divorce and the struggles around it. The article below gives excellent insight into divorce from a child's perspective.

The Effects of Divorce on Children:

Dr. Deb Huntley, professor of psychology at Argosy University/Twin Cities says, "No matter what age a child is, he or she will have more difficulty adjusting to divorce if there is continued conflict between parents. Other factors that add to this difficulty include, loss of contact with a competent, non-custodial parent; financial stress; a change of address; loss of continuity in school and home routines; psychological problems in the custodial or, non-custodial parent; and blurred boundaries between the parent and child.”

Going Through Divorce: From Your Child's Perspective

  • Don't put me in the middle. If you need to talk to each other, please do it yourself. Don't give me notes to carry to my other parent. Don't keep secrets about me from my other parent. Don't put me in the position of having to answer questions I don't have answers to just because you don't like my other parent.
  • Don’t make me take sides. You may not have a husband/wife anymore, but I still have a mom/dad. When possible, tell me something positive about my parent. And, don't expect me to hide how I feel about my other parent. I love both my parents, if you are an adult, you won't find that idea threatening. If you do, get help because I don't want to be harmed by your immaturity and anger.
  • Unless there is are problems with domestic abuse, allow me to have access to both parents. Take this into account when you are deciding where to live. I want to see my other parent as often as possible. If it weren't for the divorce, I'd be seeing them every day. Don't let your divorce damage my relationship with my other parent.
  • The better you are able to coparent with each other, the better I will be able to cope with the divorce. I don't want to hear you fight or see you exchange dirty looks. I don't want to have the police at my house just because you two can't get along. I'm more important than your anger at each other so, grow up and put me first.
  • Ask me how I am doing and what I need. Even though you are going through your own loss, I need help talking about the divorce and how I am feeling. I need it is hard on you to get a divorce, guess what, it is hard on me too and I'm not the one who wanted a divorce. Think about that, I'm hurting over something I didn't want in the first place. Make sure you help me work through my pain.
  • Try to keep everything else in my life the same. It is stressful enough to lose a parent to divorce, but even tougher to move to a different school, a new neighborhood, and a new home. The more things I have to change, the more emotional pain I feel. Keep me in mind when you are making major decisions about your divorce.
  • Remember that I am your child. Although you have gone through a divorce, my role is not to replace your spouse or be a friend. Continue to treat me as your child. I don't want to hear about your problems. I don't want to worry about how you are doing. I want you to take care of me because it isn't my job to take care of you.
  • If you need to talk to somebody about what you are going through, find a friend or a therapist. It is too much for me to carry your burden as well. If you don't like my Mom's new boyfriend, I don't need to know. If you don't like the way Dad parents when I'm with him, talk to Dad about it, not me. I'm not your sounding board!
  • No matter what my age is, this is still a loss for me. I may show my grief in many different ways, including anger, depression, anxiety, or acting-out behavior. Please get me help if I am having difficulty.
  • I long for continuity, routine, and tradition. Although our family has changed, keep as many traditions and routines the same as possible. I want to see all my Aunts, Uncles, and cousins on both sides of the family. I want time with both my parents and their families during the holidays. You are my parents, it's your job to make sure these things happen. 

We've all heard how resilient children are and how quickly they bounce back after a divorce. I'm sure you've also heard that if a parent is happy the children will be happy also. Well, that isn't always the situation so, it pays to not project your own beliefs about the divorce onto your children. Give them a voice, view them as autonomous beings with their own take on the situation and work with them based on their feelings. 

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