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How Does Divorce Affect a Child’s Mental Health?

St. Charles Family Law Attorneys

Wheaton Family Law Attorney

A divorce can have a significant impact on a child’s mental health. How significant of an impact the divorce has on a child’s psyche is dependent on multiple factors, such as the level of conflict present in the household prior to the divorce, the parents’ relationship during the divorce and afterward, the child’s age, the circumstances present before, during, and after the divorce, and the child’s personality. There is no way to predict exactly how a divorce will affect a specific child. Divorcing parents can educate themselves about how their divorce could affect their child and make an effort to reduce its impact on their child’s mental health. Knowing which resources are best for your child and available to him or her can help you to help your child through the divorce.

Divorce has a Unique Impact on Different Age Groups

A child’s age and maturity level can play a role in how his or her mental health is impacted by a divorce. Even infants and toddlers who will not actually remember the events of the divorce process later are affected by their parents’ choice to end their marriages. They can feel the tension present in their households and might regress to earlier developmental stages as a coping mechanism.

School age children can feel anxious, depressed, or angry about their parents’ divorces and lash out, become withdrawn, or suffer from issues like eating disorders or insomnia because of the stress of a divorce. Adolescents can also experience these reactions to stress and tension in their households, sometimes pushing them to act out or causing their grades to suffer.

A child’s gender can also play a role in how a divorce impacts his or her mental health and how he or she manifests this impact. Boys are likely to become aggressive and girls often turn their emotions inward. Every child is unique and yours can experience symptoms that are not typical of his or her gender or age group. If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, discuss your concerns with a child psychologist.

Mental Health Resources for Children of Divorcing Parents

There are many different resources available to divorcing parents. One of these is your child’s school guidance counselor. Encourage your child to speak with the guidance counselor about his or her feelings and experiences related to the divorce. Your child’s pediatrician can also be a helpful resource, either by recognizing and treating the physical symptoms of poor mental health or referring him or her to a mental health specialist.

Family, friends, and extracurricular activities can be a different type of mental health resource for your child. Children whose parents are working through the divorce process need structure. Continuing with regular extracurricular activities and social engagements can provide this routine and help your child take his or her mind off the divorce.

Tips to Help your Child Handle the Stresses of Divorce

You can help your child handle the stresses of your divorce by being proactive about his or her potential needs and reactive when they actually crop up. A few guidelines to follow to help your child through the divorce process include:

  • Giving him or her enough information about the divorce to allow him or her to understand the process without overwhelming him or her with too much information;
  • Making time for fun, light activities like movie nights or days at the park;
  • Encouraging your child to discuss his or her feelings with you. Show that you will give him or her your full attention when he or she needs you; and
  • Encouraging your child to express him- or herself in healthy ways. This can include drawing pictures, writing in a journal, or coming to you with his or her feelings. Your child needs an outlet and without one, can become destructive or suffer from the impacts of worsening mental health.

Work with an Experienced Kane County Family Law Firm

Your child’s mental health should be as much of a concern to you as his or her physical health. To discuss strategies for making the divorce process less stressful for your child and yourself, contact our team of St. Charles divorce attorneys at Goostree Law Group to schedule your initial consultation in our office.

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