Divorce is common across many families in the UK and is a hot topic discussed in the media. It’s a difficult choice to make and isn’t easy for anyone, but the impression that this can have on the children of divorced parents can be quite significant.
Of course, not all divorces are ugly, and neither do the people getting divorced necessarily hate each other’s guts. But, more often than not, they can be a turbulent period, with intense arguments and unhappiness.
The age of a child doesn’t change how they feel about their parents getting divorced — it can be a very upsetting and traumatic time for them. In this article, we take a look at the mental health implications for children who are caught up in the middle of a marital breakdown. We will also analyse what you, as a parent, can do to help them.
Shifting The Family Dynamic
Whether a child is an infant or a teenager, the amount of change their family life will experience is going to have significant effects on their mental health. After all, it’s all they’ve known. If you decide to bring family law solicitors into the mix, for a younger child progressing through their developmental years, having one parent moving out of the house can be confusing.
For younger children, they might struggle trying to understand why one of their parents has left their family home.
Research has indicated that younger children have a more difficult time processing the divorce of their parents. Despite this, they are the most likely to bear the brunt of the effect of change. The breakdown of a marriage could mean them moving to a new house, moving school, or no longer seeing one of their parents. It could also mean the family is less well-off financially, which could irritate and upset a child who has grown accustomed to such a lifestyle as they could feel like they are being punished. For example, in the past, your child may have been able to go away on a school trip each year with their friends, whether it be skiing or a pre-summer break.
Try not to forget to be understanding of your child’s changing behaviour. A failure to understand a situation can frustrate a child, and in many cases, this can result in anger.
It’s common for a child to act up when there is only one parent, after all the level of discipline may change. Rather than dishing out punishment for bad behaviour, try to understand the position in which the child finds themselves. Try not to forget that they are currently going through a rollercoaster of emotions. Therefore, be patient and take into consideration the way you are acting around them.
Children are very attentive to their surroundings. So, if one parent is badmouthing another, they are likely to pick up on this and replicate it. Although the situation between both co-parents may be rather toxic, for the sake of the child’s emotional stability, communication is key. Monitoring behaviour around both parents, particularly if they are now living in different homes, is an effective way to quash any behavioural issues.
A good, stable education will support your child’s mental health through a difficult time. Research has discovered that children who grow up in a two-parent, married family are more likely to do better at school. They are more likely to be less disruptive in class, and less aggressive towards other classmates. In terms of their academic performance, children whose parents’ marriage is intact are more likely to do their work without being forced.
According to a study by BBC in 2014, around 65 per cent of children whose parents had divorced got worse GCSE results than expected, while 44 per cent believed that their A-Level results were affected. Resolution, who conducted the research, proposed that the disruption of moving school could be at fault for the exam results.
Divorce is never an easy decision to make, but don’t live unhappily together for the sake of your children. This can create a negative environment for your child. With the right level of understanding and support, your child will cope and learn to live with the change.