Children and Divorce: Effects and How You Can Help
Divorce has a long-lasting impact on children. Whether they are very young or into young adulthood when the divorce occurs, they can suffer from the effects for years to come. It’s important to learn about the effect divorce has on children so you can eliminate as many stressors as possible for your child. You can also gain guidance and support from a Christian counselor who deals with divorce and children.
The Effects of Divorce on Children
Just as divorce affects adults in many ways, it has many negative effects on children too. Adults often assume that children are more resilient than they are. Children may internalize the hurts from the divorce and not heal from them for years.
But with a Christian counselor’s help, these effects can be managed much earlier, so they can have a reduced impact on the child. Here are common effects of divorce on children that we see in our offices.
Children cannot process all the thoughts and feelings stirred up by the divorce. Since they usually cannot voice the strong feelings they have, they store the feelings inside their bodies, which can cause psychosomatic symptoms.
Here are some of the symptoms you may see in your child that could be related to unprocessed trauma from the divorce:
- Upset stomach
- Growing pains
- Unexplained pains
- Immune system disruption
- Skin problems
- Eating disorders
- Disrupted sleep
These symptoms are just a few of those we have seen in our clients. They need to be addressed as soon as possible so they do not result in a delay in your child’s physical development. A counselor can notice these signs and work with your child’s doctor to restore your child to health. Talk therapy is a good way to help your child sort out their problems so they can reduce the physical symptoms of trauma.
No child is prepared to handle the hurt, pain, confusion, anger, and sadness that results from his or her parents splitting up. Your child will likely wrestle with these issues for years, but this process can be smoother if you involve a Christian therapist in the process.
The fear of abandonment affects nearly every child’s emotions after a divorce. Your child may think that because one parent left, other adults are likely to leave. Younger children may be clingy, especially at transfer times to the other parent’s home.
Your child may also exhibit apathy or withdrawal due to a desire to protect himself from further hurt. You can work to reduce these fears by keeping consistent routines and offering reassuring words. You need to also keep the promises you make, particularly about pickup times, to give your child a sense of security.
Sadness is another common emotion after the divorce. Your child needs to grieve the loss, but many children get stuck in this cycle of sadness. You may see your child crying more often or isolating herself after a visit with the other parent.
Though your child needs space to grieve, she also needs support from you. Hold your child and allow her tears to fall. A Christian counselor can help draw the sadness out of your child and watch for signs of depression.
Anger is also a common feeling children experience after divorce. But children express anger in different ways. One child may explode in angry outbursts, while another may quietly simmer and never voice her true feelings. Yet another child may let anger leak out with sarcastic and disrespectful comments.
Your child needs a safe space to process his anger without fear of being judged. A counselor can help your child find a voice for his anger and process the hurt that lies underneath it, then identify triggers to learn how to manage anger in healthier ways.
Today’s children are under immense pressure to perform well at school. But when a child’s parents divorce, she may buckle under the pressure. Her grades may suffer for a while due to a lack of concentration and muddled thinking, which is a result of the trauma surrounding the divorce. She may also develop a disorder like anxiety disorder or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder if she doesn’t learn how to process the pain.
It’s important to address the mental effects the divorce has on your child. Left unaddressed, these effects can lead to substance abuse or self-harm in some vulnerable children. Other children may become addicted to video games or social media as a means of escaping the mental pain they are suffering. A qualified Christian counselor can help your child heal from the trauma surrounding the divorce and navigate the mental effects your child is experiencing.
Children are born needing to trust their parents. However, a divorce sends shock waves into the core of the child’s trust. When a child loses trust in her parents, she may also lose trust in God. Your child may secretly think, “If God knows everything, why didn’t he stop my parents from getting a divorce?” Since your child has only a limited view of your family problems, she may have false reasoning that will hurt her relationship with you and God for years.
By having your child meet with a Christian counselor, she can learn to rebuild her trust in God first, then work on building trust in her parents again. She will be free to voice her concerns and doubts without the worry of being judged in the counselor’s office. Her counselor will reassure her with biblical principles about God’s unchanging character even though her life situation has changed.
Loneliness is at epidemic levels in our society. Divorce in a child’s life only invites more loneliness. Your child may feel like no one understands him, and he may not feel comfortable expressing his true feelings about the divorce even with people he loves and trusts. This can lead to isolation, which causes loneliness.
It’s important to address your child’s loneliness as soon as possible. You can stay involved in your child’s life and make meaningful connections with him while fostering his friendships with others.
You can help your child connect with members of his extended family, church members, and neighbors to fill in the relationship gaps he may be experiencing. A Christian counselor can serve as a safe place for your child to express his feelings and learn healthy ways to connect with others.
How You Can Help Your Child
We know that you only want the best for your child after your divorce. The best thing you can do is to be present with your child, actively listening to her and supporting her. You need help to get through the divorce, so you can be strong for your child.
Don’t burden her with your feelings and frustrations because she is not able to carry that load. Get your needs met by talking with trusted friends, a pastor, or a counselor yourself so you can serve your child to the best of your ability.
Your child needs your unconditional love, support, and encouragement. But he also needs you to maintain healthy boundaries and keep schedules as predictable as possible. The more stable your home is, the greater chance that your child will weather the changes well. It’s wise to get counseling for both yourself and your child so you can both get through the transition with wisdom and strength.
Christian Counseling for Children and Divorce
Since divorce has such a devastating effect on children, it’s essential to get them the quality help they need to navigate all the changes. A Christian counselor will offer compassionate care to match your child’s developmental needs. Our staff of counselors is ready to help you and your child heal from the hurts of the divorce and draw closer to God and others in the process.
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