As I settled down into my cramped plane seat, I looked around at my co-passengers, hoping to find someone to talk to during the long journey. My eyes met hers. Forlorn and sad, those pale green eyes seemed to ask questions, for which I had no answers to. As I started talking to her, I realized that the little girl next to me was just seven-years-old and was traveling all alone to meet her mom. Her parents had divorced last year and she had been rushed to-and-fro, between the two parents, just because there were constant reports of under-performance and concentration failures at school. With no parent willing to take responsibility, I just wonder what will happen to Emily. Or for that matter to the millions of children, who are the unwilling witnesses to their parent's divorce.
With the dramatic increase of divorce rates in United Sates, many social problems have cropped up, which have adversely affected the lives of those involved in them. With the breaking up of family relationships, major havoc is created. This results in not only stressful conditions for the couple, but in situations where a child is involved, divorce can have long-standing and traumatic effects on the child as well. The popular notion that the trauma of a divorce is a transient phase in the life of the child, has been challenged by psychologists. They now believe that it is not the parent's anger during the time of the divorce which was the most critical, but rather the many years of post divorce trauma, that mattered the most. This involves a period of sadness and loneliness, combined with feelings of stress and anxiety. These negative feelings are maximized in the cases where the divorce is a nasty one or when there is a prolonged, intense child custody battle. Most of the time, children end up blaming themselves for the divorce and the loss of a parent.
Effects of Divorce on Children
Stress and Behavioral Problems at Home: Children are usually sensitive and are therefore more susceptible to emotional damage, than the adults are. Since the parents are likely be stressed out by the divorce and no longer showing the child the same affection and tolerance that they had once displayed, children express these difficulties in many ways. With the disruptions to the family routine, combined with a sense of powerlessness, children display their grief by:
- Demonstrating anger, directed both toward others and themselves
- Failure to acknowledge responsibility
- A sense of guilt
- Frequent breaking of rules.
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Destructive behavior and problems with defiance
- Isolation or withdrawal from friends and family
- Thoughts of suicide or violence
- Increased or early sexual activity
Problems Faced at School: Divorce can result in not only distancing the child from the parents, but also from friends and peers at school. Most of the time, the school grades suffer due to the inability of the child in concentrating on his studies at home. Parents are usually too busy to help with the homework. Studies have shown that children from a broken home are more likely to drop out before graduating high school and are also less likely to attend college. In addition, they may have problems dealing with peers and may take to breaking the rules at school.
It has been observed that young adults whose parents get separated while they were young, suffer from low self-confidence and face relationship issues themselves. However, things are not doomed for the children whose parents have divorced. If you understand the effect of divorce on children, you can handle the situation just right and help the children cope with the situation. Reassuring the children of your love and explaining the situation, goes a long way in helping the child understand that divorce is due to difficulties between parents, and children have nothing to contribute to that and that it's not their fault.
It is important to understand that the child will miss the parents, so avoid saying negative things about one another as it may hurt the child. In addition, there are divorce counseling services designed specifically for children, that you may like to consider. Remember that it is critical for the well-being of the children, that both the parents continue to play important roles in their lives. Therefore, the parents should work together as much as possible to limit the amount of damage that divorce can have on them.