How Does Separation and Divorce Impact Children?

A child holding a paper cutout of a family.

Separation and divorce are challenging for spouses but the way you deal with it has a bigger impact on your children and their well-being. Your goal should be to offer them normalcy amidst major changes and mitigate negative actions. It may have mental effects on them, and if they are too young, they might not be able to vocalise and show their feelings through bad behaviour and anger. We hope this blog helps you understand the mental effects separation and divorce have on children and how to handle this transition legally while making them a priority. 

Mental effects of separation and divorce on children

All children know is that their parents are in love and together. When you decide to part ways, it’ll have an impact on their emotional and psychological well-being. Here’s how: 

1. Emotional Stress and Anxiety

Sadness, anger, and confusion are the very first emotions they’ll experience once you tell them about the separation. If they are too young, around toddler age or younger, they will feel confused but it’ll often be shown as tantrums. They are just as worried about the future and often think that they are to blame for the separation. As a parent, it is your responsibility to tell them that they aren’t responsible for it and that both parents love them and will always be there supporting and cheering them on. 

2. Difficulties in school 

Children might find it hard to concentrate on their studies because of all the emotional stress they are experiencing. It can result in declining grades and loss of interest in school activities. Teenage kids may want to skip classes as a rebellious action and to tell parents that they don’t agree with the divorce. 

3. Changes in behaviour 

Younger children may become more clingy or start bedwetting, while teenagers might act out, become aggressive, or withdraw socially. They may also struggle with social interactions, withdraw from everyday activities, and lose interest in things they’ve always enjoyed. Some might feel a lot of guilt and blame themselves for the separation and try to “behave better” in hopes that their parents will get back together. 

4. Self-esteem and Relationships

Children of divorced parents may feel unworthy of love or attention because their parents didn’t love each other or their father cheated and their mother chose to stay until the kids were older. They will experience self-doubt and often shy away from romantic relationships when they start getting serious. On the other hand, they’ll become exclusive with the first person they meet in hopes that they break their parents’ cycle. 

5. Risk of Mental Health Issues

Studies have shown that children from divorced families are at a higher risk of experiencing mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety. If you see signs of withdrawal or bursts of emotions and anger, we highly recommend you find a child or youth psychotherapist who helps them with major life transitions. Whether it’s in-person or virtual, the therapist will offer them a safe space to express their feelings and find strategies to overcome them. 

A family law concept with wooden family figurines and gavel on table

How to handle separation and divorce legally with kids? 

While you are supporting your children emotionally, making things legal will offer them some comfort. Here are steps you can take as a parent: 

1. Consider Your Legal Options

Understand the legal process of separation and divorce in your province. Consult with a family lawyer in Brampton about the possible custody arrangements, child support, and division of property regarding your matter. If your kids are teenagers or older, inform them about the decision and the thought behind it. For younger kids, ask them which parent they want to spend holidays with, how they want to celebrate birthdays, and whom they want to live with.

2. Consider Mediation

Mediation can be a less adversarial approach to resolving disputes but only possible when both parties are ready to compromise and negotiate. Your priority should be your children’s interests and that should dictate the child custody arrangements. Offer your kids stability, so they can form healthy relationships with those around them and don’t lose their innocence in the chaos. 

3. Focus on Co-Parenting

Your role as a parent doesn’t have an expiry date and if you find it difficult to cooperate with your ex-spouse, refocus on the main issue – your children. Even if you weren’t good partners, be good co-parents who can communicate openly about the needs of the children, maintain routines, and help them access the other parent whenever they want. 

4. Protect Children from Conflict

Children should not be put in the middle of parental disputes or used as messengers between parents. Shield them from conflicts and don’t speak negatively about the other parent. If a kid complains about the other parent, dig deeper into the issue before jumping to conclusions. 

5. Seek Legal Support

A family law firm in Brampton that focuses on the best interests of the children should be your first choice. They will offer you resources and guide you in the right direction. If you are looking for an experienced law firm, our family lawyers at Sterling Law are here for you. We handle complex to simple divorce matters, those involving children and division of assets. Please reach out to us for a free 30-minute consultation (first-time clients only).

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