Divorce affects millions of people everyday. This is a long drawn out process that affects the whole family, especially the children. It is hard to imagine a more difficult transition for a child than to be a party to his or her parents divorce. Children of divorced parents have been known to have behavior problems, aggressive behavior, negative self-image, etc. These children are hurt when their family will no longer be living with both their mother and father as a single unit. This is a blow directly to a child’s mind and delicate psyche.
Alan L. Otten of the Wall Street Journal wrote a short article on the effects of divorce on young adults and children. The author used a long-term survey done by a non-profit research firm in Washington. The company surveyed 1,143 children, of divorced parents, who were between the ages of 7 and 11. Five years later these children were re-interviewed. The parents of these children were also interviewed at the two stages. The results were gathered when the second interview was finished. Among the subjects, 30% of them had poor relationships with their mothers, while two thirds of them had poor relationships with their fathers. One quarter of the population dropped out of high school for some time. One fifth had serious behavioral problems, while 40% needed some type of psychological help. The final stand of the article is summed up by a quote of researcher Nicholas Zill, “While we should be careful not to exaggerate the risks that paternal divorce poses to the young people involved, neither should we minimize those risks”.
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In general the article is correct with the research that has been conducted. However, the article, while presented the facts left out some of the more immediate effects. Effects based on other age groups and genders, suggestions, and alternative possibilities of divorce. The article was well written but due to the fact that it is only a small article, it cannot give all of the information for the subject needed for the big picture.
The first effects of the divorce happen well before the actual process begins. It begins with the constant strain within in the household. The two parents are usually found bickering, fighting, and generally getting along. The child seems to be caught right in the middle of the fighting. The child feels that he or she is the cause of the fighting. Everyday tasks take longer because both parents are stressed and distracted.
After the divorce, major factors in a child’s life will be altered. Many things will change, including but not limited to the fact that mom or dad will not be around. They may lose contact with extended family on one side or the other. Simple things like their bedtime, mealtime, and after school routines may change. However even these small changes can make the child feel like nothing will ever be normal again.
When the parents separate there may be feelings of abandonment. Most children have a realistic fear that if they lose one parent, they may lose the other as well. The children will fear being all alone. This may cause the child to become more attention seeking so that their custodial parent will not forget them. These children, who have a natural attachment for their parents, also fear losing other secure relationships such as pets, neighbors, and friends. Sometimes it is just the surroundings that can cause the attachment. The more things change to more resentful the child will become of the situation.
Children of different age brackets are affected differently when it comes to divorce. One would assume that that older children, over 13, should be better off than younger children because they would have had more contact with both parents. Another assumption would be that very young children, under five, would have an easier time due to the short time they had with their parents as a couple. However neither is true because those are the times when children need the most attention.
In those early stages a child is becoming an individual with its own likes and dislikes. The child uses its parents as a template for their own development, picking and choosing parts of its parents that suit him or her best. However, with only one parent, the child has a greater possibility of becoming a carbon copy of that one parent rather than a combination of the two parents.
The older child is already going through confusing changes in their own body. They need the support of their parents and family. When parents are divorced, access to the other parts of the family becomes much harder to find and become less reliable as a source of help.
In terms of which children are better off, the findings suggest that children between 5 and 12 years of age may do the best at coping with the loss. This is because these children are in a developmental transition. While yes, they will be affected by what happens during this time in their live, these children are not as dependent on the parents for their own development.
There are ways to ease the transition of a divorce. A few techniques that will make the entire process run more smoothly. Both parents must be involved with the life of the child. The Divorced parents must act civilly when around each other. There will be so much change going on that keeping to the routine will help the child adapt. Finally, all parties involved should not be afraid to ask for help.
When a couple is going into separation, the best thing that couple can do is reassure the child. The must remind that both of them will still be their parents. They will act like their parents and reward and discipline them as needed. They may need reassuring that both of the parents will protect them from harm. The parents must remind the child that they both love the child and always will.
The two parents need to respect each other. When the parents are calm, the child will not overreact to some of the changes. The child depends on the parents to be a role model for certain situations. If the child sees the parents getting along the child will be more at ease. Even if their anger is burning or you feel wronged in the divorce process, parents must not communicate that to their children. They can vent to a therapist or another professional if that type of help is sought, or possibly to friends relatives, but do not vent to the child.
Collaborate with your spouse regarding chores and bedtimes and other actions of routine. This keeps the transition between the houses simpler. This also allows the child to feel more at home in a foreign environment. Children feel more secure when there is a standard routine. Set aside a few hours just for the child that should be considered a top priority. This time should always be observed whenever possible.
One of the questions the article brought up was whether or not to stay as a family and “stay together for the kids”. While counseling can help a marriage it is important to know when to quit. Staying together when all one does is fight is dangerous to the child. In certain cases divorce may be the best option so that the children will have the least amount of harm done to them.
Divorce is a life changing event that affects all involved. The children are the ones who are affected the most. The repercussion of this event travels through their entire lifetime. Some take it in stride; others will take it to heart and have it rule their lives. One should be careful how one handles an event like this.
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