How Does Divorce Affect Children?
Which is more damaging for a child’s well-being: divorce or living with unhappy parents? At the moment, there is conflicting evidence advice regarding how divorce affects children. To make things more complicated, it would appear that the age of the children when the divorce takes place will impact the outcome.
How does divorce negatively affect children?
Parents staying together for the kids might offer short-term benefits, but in the long-term, it would appear that children benefit more from having two happy parents – even if they don’t live together.
Naturally, children who grow up in a stable and loving home will fare the best. But, unfortunately, divorce disrupts their schedule and creates instability in their life when they need it most.
However, it would seem that children are pretty resilient. So while it might be a short-term disruption to their stability, the effects might be short-lived. Put simply; children will fare better without the tension that comes with growing up in an unhappy home.
Common problems for children during divorce
The logistics of living in two homes can be a lot for some children to handle. This is why it’s best to establish a routine early with a child arrangement order and stick to it. It’s also common for children to hold on to some hope that their parents will reconcile, so keeping things amicable without giving false hope will help.
Couples with children will obviously not venture into separation and divorce proceedings lightly, so deciding to get back together after a period apart should also be considered carefully.
Children may exhibit the following problems while their parents go through a divorce:
- Distress, anger and anxiety
- Fear and neediness
- A sense of guilt or blame
- Academic troubles
- Disruptive behaviour
- Emotional problems
- Risk-taking behaviour
How to minimise the impact on children
These adverse effects of divorce are often temporary and will subside after a few years as the child adapts to the new normal. However, there are some things that parents can do to help them transition to a co-parenting arrangement more easily.
Provided one parent can provide the following, there is an increased likelihood of a positive outcome for the children involved. If both parents can get on board, this will be even better.
- Provide a safe and secure home where they feel they can express their emotions
- Be warm and affectionate with the children
- Speak well of the other parent and the other parent’s new partner
- Cooperate with the other parent on issues regarding the children
- Maintain ongoing and open communication with the other parent
- Maintain clear boundaries and expectations for the children
- Seek professional help if required
On balance, while children may struggle to adjust to their new routine, divorce would be far more beneficial to the children in the long term. When a marriage breaks down, the healthiest thing for everyone involved may be to walk away and learn to co-parent.
Anyone thinking about divorce would be advised to share this information with their spouse and then get advice about the process before moving forward.
How can no-fault mortgages help?
The introduction of no-fault mortgages in 2022 should hopefully make this process easier for couples with children. At the moment, a divorce can only be granted if the couple agrees on who is at fault for the marriage breakdown.
This can add unnecessary animosity to proceedings, particularly when the couple decide that they no longer want to work on their marriage. It also removes the possibility of contesting a divorce, so one parent can’t decide to reject the application and force their spouse to stay married.
A no-fault mortgage could make it easier for couples with children to separate and keep things as amicable as possible so they can focus on co-parenting.
Collaboration. First published on the 24/09/2021.