- Children and teens are physically, mentally, and emotionally vulnerable because their brains are still developing—which makes love and support during these years vital.
- When parents get divorced, and if they let their issues take priority, that balance of love and support can get thrown off and have negative implications on their kid’s wellbeing.
- You can make this time of change easier on your kid by first assuring them that your separation is not their fault.
- You should also do your best as co-parents to get along, communicate about your child’s wellbeing, and continue to model what a healthy relationship looks like.
- Finally, put your kid’s needs first: do whatever it takes to put your differences aside so you can continue to provide your kid with the love and support they need.
The Implications of Divorce on Your Child’s Wellbeing
One major reason children and teens are more vulnerable to mental health issues is because they’re still developing. Their brains are evolving and they themselves are still growing—physically, mentally, emotionally. And throughout this developmental period, they need some love and support—of which is often provided by the parents. So, naturally, when divorce is thrown into the mix, the children suffer in more ways than one. Beth Sonnenberg, licensed clinical social worker, explains:
“Their sense of safety and security is suddenly compromised. Children may not have the support that they require because parents may be preoccupied with their situation. If only one parent is in the home, they might be overwhelmed and not provide enough attention to their kids. All of these factors may cause children to feel more insecure than they were previously and can cause behavior changes like acting out to get negative attention or withdrawing from their peers.”
That said, children aren’t always negatively impacted when their parents separate. It has much to do with how their parents go about the divorce, how they talk with their children about the separation, and whether or not they continue to provide their children with the support they need—especially in the midst of this difficult change.
Make This Change Easier on Your Kids: 3 Keys
It’s often hard for a kid or teen to wrap their head around the idea of their parents divorcing. And even in cases where they saw the separation coming, or never witnessed a loving relationship between their parents, moving forward amidst this change is difficult—it alters life as they knew it. The good news is that parents can make this time easier on their kids. The key is showing their kids that they’re still loved and getting along as co-parents despite the split, as explained by Sonnenberg:
“Divorcing parents can help their children during this difficult time by having positive communication amongst everyone. Parents should be able to talk or text each other regularly to keep one another on top of what’s going on with their children so their child can continue to feel their support. Parents that stop speaking to one another, have secrets, or speak badly of one another, are letting their emotions affect their child’s life in a negative way. They both need to put their child’s needs first to minimize the emotional damage a divorce can create.”
Let’s break this down further. If you and your spouse have decided to separate, prioritize the following to ensure that your child’s mental health doesn’t become collateral damage:
- Remind your kids that they are loved and they are not the problem. Often, kids think something they did is to blame for the divorce. Assure them that this is not the case, and that no matter what, they are loved by both of their parents.
- Get along as best you can as co-parents. You might have decided to end your romantic relationship, but you’re still important to one another—because you’re both important to your child. So get along as best you can, at least as co-parents.
- Put your child’s needs first. No matter what, you should put your child’s needs first. Put all of your differences aside to support your child and do what is best for them.