Kids are Resilient, right?
by Holly Hudson
Divorce affects more than one million children every year, and it affects them in many negative ways. It’s second only to the death of a spouse or a child on the list of life’s stressful events. The news that their parents will no longer be together threatens children’s sense of security and even their sense of identity. They often feel the divorce is their fault.
Some children, believing they can “fix” the family, demonstrate stellar behavior. Others rebel and act out, hoping their parents will reunite to solve the problem. Still others don’t react much at all—but their stoicism is simply hiding buried feelings that will come out at some point. Both the age and temperament of the children affect how they will cope with divorce.
Regardless of their initial reaction, all children experience a pattern of emotional responses when their parents divorce. Having endured a tremendous loss, they react as many adults do when facing a shock of that magnitude. The grieving stages include denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These emotions can affect the children’s sleep, appetite, schoolwork and ability to interact with others.
Though the parents may feel overwhelmed by and preoccupied with their own problems, they must make a concerted effort to reassure their children. Kids need to hear that the divorce is not their fault, that they can love both of their parents and that both parents love them and plan to remain involved in their lives. Under no circumstances should parents use the children to acquire information about each other, or to listen to their problems as if their child is their confidante. Maintaining healthy relationships and boundaries is vital to the well-being of children and parents alike.
Parents should be aware of their children’s behavior. If the kids are struggling, they may need a counselor’s help to work through their grief. A skilled counselor can help guide the entire family through the strain of divorce.