Divorce: The Psychological Toll on Children
Published on 20 September, 2016 | Alice Couriel
Divorce rates have fallen dramatically over the past 40 years. Many commentators have attributed this to the increase in pre-marriage cohabitation, claiming that it helps couples to strengthen their relationship before going on to tie the knot.
Even so, divorce is still common in Britain today, and the psychological toll that it can have on children is still a significant problem. Below, we discuss how children can feel the effects of divorce and how to prevent it.
Children can become stressed when their parents divorce. They can become anxious and depressed, leading to issues such as behavioural problems, feelings of anger and trouble sleeping. To reduce the effects of stress, parents can ask their children (if of an appropriate age) what they can do to help. By doing this, children feel valued and parents can change their behaviours and actions to help the children feel more settled.
Sadly, children will often blame themselves for family breakdown. They may feel guilty and attempt to resolve complex family issues themselves, in the hope that this will bring the family back (or closer) together.
To ensure that children do not feel as though they are at fault, be open and communicate with them about what is happening. This will make them feel reassured and, hopefully, more accepting of the separation.
Any child’s adolescent years can be difficult, but especially so if their parents decide to separate. Teenagers often blame themselves for the family breakdown and feel the effects of stress – just like smaller children do – but they are also less likely to be open about their feelings, given the awkwardness and embarrassment of puberty. This can lead to a lack of concentration at school and they may feel unable to prepare for important exams like SATs and GSCEs.
However, by trying out mediation, or family therapy, the family can calmly discuss exactly what they need, and resolve any issues quickly.
The process of divorce or separation can be a very difficult for families, and children are often caught in the crossfire, but if the separation is dealt with quickly and professionally, the psychological toll that it takes on children can be lessened.
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