When parents are divorcing, there is always the issue of the reaction of children to divorce; the concern is always on the growth and development of children, how healthy and happy children will grow in the absence of their two parents. According to research, most children experience short term effects of divorce, and sometimes, others are affected even more in the long term. This paper will discuss the short term and long-term effects of parents’ divorce on children.
Immediate effects of divorce on children
Simons et al (2006), highlight that immediately after divorce, most children start experiencing its effects. These effects depend on the child’s age at the time parents are divorcing. These effects also vary with the conflict between parents, a child’s personality and gender, as well as the amount of support the child receives from friends and families. Children who are less than three years old are not affected much by divorce, however, if the relationship between the child and parent is not maintained, the child is bound to have problems adjusting to the divorce.
Infants might have problems in feeding; they might lose their appetite or experience stomach upsets. Children in pre-school believe that they are the cause of their parent’s divorce, and because of this, they are scared to be abandoned. According to Simons et al (2006), some of them might start behaving like babies, and sometimes they wet their beds; they deny living a life that is different from that with their parents. Despite their need for security from an adult, these children sometimes act aggressively and disobey adults.
According to psychologists, school-aged children find difficulties adjusting to parental divorce because they understand the pain of parents’ separation. Simons et al (2006), argue that these children are young, and cannot control their reaction; therefore, they go through embarrassment and grief, and sometimes they feel intense anger, resentment as well as divided loyalty. These experiences affect their involvement in play and sometimes they isolate themselves from other children.
A teen’s age, children experience guilt, depression, loneliness, and fear, and sometimes they feel forced into adulthood at an early age. Therefore, they feel overburdened with the responsibility of looking after their siblings and many chores. They experience stress and a lack of support in handling their sexual feelings at their age. They sometimes doubt their ability to keep their marriage in the future (Laumann-Billings and Emery, 2000).
Long-term effects of divorce on children
Some effects continue in children’s lifetime, and such effects are likely to have a long term effect on children. Many of them seem to have come to terms with the decision of their parents to divorce. However, according to Hetherington and Kelly (2002), such children remain critical of their parents for having a misguided marriage, and according to them, mistakes could have been rectified and solved amicably. Many of these children claim to have emerged out strong and independent, but when compared to children from families will both parents, they are seen to have poor health. These children did not receive the nurturing and provide children with both parents receive, and this affects their physical development.
Aro and Palosaari (2002), explain that emotionally, children with divorced parents have a persistent emotional problem, and because of this, they are always over-protective of themselves. They fear betrayal, rejection, and abandonment, this affects their relationship with other people; they always think that their relationship with others might not last, and in the end, they might be left alone. Some of these children, when they reach the age of getting married, they fear to commit themselves to relationships that could lead to marriage.
Wallerstein (2001) argues that they are scared to experience conflicts in marriage, and later on divorce; according to him, any time they choose to commit themselves to a relationship, they always experience intense memories about the separation of their parents. However, those who commit themselves to relationships leading to marriage do it at an early age, and sometimes they are easily lured by older people who misuse them and leave them to suffer. Aro and Palosaari (2002) argue that their early commitment to such a relationship is influenced by their search for the love they have not gotten from their parents during their early age, and this search makes them vulnerable to experiences of loss throughout their life.
These children sometimes grow to resent women or men depending on whom they think caused the divorce; children who think that their mother is the cause of divorce might grow up to resent women and vice versa. Their resentment sometimes makes them hostile to women/men depending on whom they think caused the divorce, therefore, their relationship with others is always poor.
Aro and Palosaari (2002), explain that these children also have a low life satisfaction in life, and no matter how successful they are, they always feel that there is a gap that cannot be filled by anything, and this gap is for love from their parents. Also, according to researchers like Amato and Keith (2001), people who grew up with their parents divorced have a poor relationship with their parents; they are always detached from their parents, feel less or no affection towards them. This makes them exchange less inter-generational assistance when they are compared to adults who grew up with both parents.
The assistance of a teacher on students with divorced parents
Amato and Keith (2001), argue that when parents are divorced, the person who is always present in a child’s life is a teacher. Therefore, if a teacher realizes that some of his/her students have parents who are divorced, he/she needs to take care of the child’s welfare. The teacher should create and maintain a classroom atmosphere that encourages openness and respect for others; this environment gives students with divorced parents an opportunity of sharing their feelings with other students without fear of being judged.
Also, as the students share their feelings, it is good for the teacher to accept and acknowledge their feelings, and advice or find solutions if necessary. The teacher should also provide these students with research opportunities to help them acquire more information on divorce; this includes access to novels and storybooks. These books will help students learn to cope with the divorce situation affecting their parents.
Aro and Palosaari (2002) highlight that sometimes students in families with parents in divorce present indiscipline cases and so that to avoid such cases, the teacher should maintain a classroom routine and structure, which include consistency in classroom schedules and discipline. This practice will provide security for students from such families.
According to Amato and Keith (2001), if students encounter psychological distress, the teacher should help them seek advice from the school counselor or psychologist. The commitment of the teacher to help these students will encourage them to have a usual life and minimize the long-term effects of their parent’s divorce.
During a divorce, children are always the most affected, the effects experienced affect their physical, mental and emotional development of such children. These effects sometimes persist in their life affecting their adulthood. Therefore, parents should think of the welfare of their children before divorcing; they might consider solving their conflicts instead of divorcing. However, if the divorce is inevitable, parents should arrange for the children’s welfare to minimize their suffering.
Amato, P., & Keith, B. (2001). Parental divorce and the well-being of children: a meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 110(5), pp. 26–46.
Aro, M., & Palosaari, K. (2002). Parental divorce, adolescence, and transition to young adulthood: A follow-up study. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 62(3), pp. 421-429.
Hetherington, E., & Kelly, J. (2002). For Better or For Worse: Divorce Reconsidered. New York: Norton.
Laumann-Billings, L., & Emery, R. (2000). Distress among young adults from divorced families. Journal of Family Psychology, 14(2), pp. 671–87.
Simons, R. et al. (2006). Understanding differences between divorced and intact families: stress, interaction, and child outcome. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Wallerstein, S. (2001). The long-term effects of divorce on children. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 30(3), pp. 349-360.