There are many different effects of divorce on children. Their social skills can suffer, and they can also begin struggling in school. If you are getting divorced, you should monitor your child’s performance in school. You should also watch for signs of sadness, anxiety, loneliness, and more.
Dealing with the loss of one parent can be a difficult experience for a child. When one parent decides to walk out, it can leave a large hole that the remaining parent may find difficult to fill. It takes love, gentleness, and patience to help a child move through this loss and transition into their new life. Parents need to understand what a child may be feeling, and how to help with any issues that happen along the way.
The effects of divorce on children include emotional trauma.
When one parent decides not to, or cannot, be in a child’s life any longer, it can leave many unanswered questions. Usually, a child will internalize this loss and make it about himself. A child may begin questioning if he is to blame for the parent leaving. This kind of loss can cause a child to question his own self-worth, and worry that the remaining parent will also leave. This is one of the many different effects of divorce on children.
Parents need to be aware that their child is thinking these types of thoughts, even if the child is not verbalizing them. Reassurance that the child is still loved and is not to blame for the loss is crucial. A parent should talk to the child about the reasons the parent left. Parents should also give their child a chance to share their own concerns and worries in a judgment-free way.
The effects of divorce on children extend into their school and social life as well. A new study reports that children of divorce are more likely to lag behind peers in math. They may also struggle with anxiety, loneliness, low self-esteem, and sadness. Hyun Sik Kim, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, published these findings in the June 2011 issue of the American Sociological Review. The study found that while children experienced no problems during the pre-divorce periods, issues with academics and social situations started as soon as the divorce process began.
Kim analyzed data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Class of 1998-1999 for his research. He chose 142 children from divorced families and compared them with students from families which were intact. All of the 142 children had parents who divorced when the kids were between the first grade and the third grade. Kim reviewed the children’s school records before their parents’ divorces, during their parents’ divorces, and afterward.
Children of Divorce Had Lower Math Scores
Using results from standardized math tests, the study found that children of divorce scored 12% lower than children from non-divorced families. On the other hand, the study found that reading skills for these children did not fall behind.
Why would math scores suffer, but not reading skills? The study of mathematics is a cumulative skill. If a child were to fall behind in one area of math, he or she would have a difficult time keeping up with the next math skill. Learning to read, on the other hand, is a fluid process. This means that when a child is struggling with reading, it is easier for him to catch up to the rest of his peers.
Over time, the math scores did not change. They did not get better, but they did not get progressively worse.
The Disruption of Divorce
Kim noted that the children of divorce had no discernable difficulties with educational skills or social skills during the pre-divorce period. Children began to develop problems once the divorce process had begun. This might have been due to the common characteristics of divorce that often affect children:
- Living in two homes instead of one stable household
- Moving to a new neighborhood or a new region of the country
- Loss of long-time friends and extended family
- Economic hardship due to a lowered family income
The study found that internalized problems were much more prevalent than externalized problems. Internalized problems include anxiety, loneliness, sadness, and low self-esteem. Externalized problems, such as arguing, fighting, or showing anger, were less apparent.
What Can Parents Do?
It is important that parents understand the effects of divorce on children as they go through the divorce process. It is also important for one or both parents to meet with (or send emails to) the child’s teacher to make sure the child is not falling behind in math. Without adding pressure on the child, it might be good to send him or her to a math summer camp or to pay an older neighbor or child to engage in some friendly tutoring.
While it is common for children of divorce to feel sad and have problems keeping or making friends after a divorce, parents must go out of their way to help the situation and understand the effects of divorce on children. If the child seems truly unhappy, finding a good child psychologist may be the best option.
Teresa Brashear grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from California State University. She is a mom, HR manager at an IT company, and a successful writer at ResumeBros.com. She loves to spend time working in her garden, learning French and Chinese, and playing volleyball.