While some children are resilient and can handle their parents’ divorce relatively well, others suffer academically and socially as a result of a divorce. Unfortunately, worrying about how your divorce affects your children can make a stressful process much more difficult.

The effect of divorce on kids is a common concern. In fact, The U.S Census Bureau has collected extensive data on how divorce affects children. For example, more than half of American children will witness the end of their parent’s marriage and 28% of children will live through poverty as a result of divorce. Luckily, research shows that there are both negative and positive effects of divorce on children.

The Social-Emotional Effects of Divorce on Children

Children of divorced parents often suffer from a plethora of emotional development issues. In fact, studies show that children with divorced parents are more likely to abuse drugs, commit crimes, have children outside of marriage, and commit suicide. Additionally, research demonstrates that teenagers in single-parent families are three times more likely to require psychological intervention.

One of the major emotional factors for children of divorce is self-blame. Sometimes, children believe they are the underlying cause of their parents’ divorce. Furthermore, some even go as far as believing that changing their behavior can get their parents back together. These children need psychological counseling to understand that their conduct is not the underlying reason for their parents’ divorce.

Ultimately, academic research studies all agree on one thing: children of divorced parents are affected in some way by their familial situation. While divorce often has a negative impact on children, some kids use the experience to manifest positive outcomes.

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How to Protect Your Children from the Worst Effects of Divorce

Getting divorced means that you have very little control over what your ex-spouse says and does. Fortunately, you do have control over what you do. In other words, acting in your children’s best interests and giving them a stable environment can make their lives during and after the divorce much less stressful. These are some examples of how your actions can lessen the stress and effects of divorce on your children.

  • If there is domestic violence in your household, move out immediately, and get a protective order against your ex. The family courts make it a priority to protect children from family violence. The other details, such as supervised visits with your ex, if applicable, will work themselves out later.

  • If your current parenting plan is no longer sustainable, formally modify the parenting plan instead of just complaining about it or blaming your ex. For example, you might want to change the parenting plan because you have to move for work, or because your children have a more demanding school schedule than before the divorce.

  • If possible, agree with your spouse about the terms of your divorce before you file for divorce. You might need a marriage counselor or mediator to help you do this.  Uncontested divorces are much less expensive and do not require you to hire a lawyer.

  • Be genuinely happy for your children if they have a good relationship with your ex-spouse and enjoy spending time with him or her.  It does not mean they love you any less or do not also enjoy spending time with you.

  • Focus on respect instead of love. The effects of divorce on children can bubble up feelings of anger and resentment. Do not expect your children to like your new partner or their new stepsiblings. Do insist that they treat them with respect, and be specific (and realistic) about your expectations.

Divorce Affects Children’s Future Relationships

According to Scientific American, children experience short-term negative effects from divorce. However, research has also shown that a small number of adults who were children of divorced couples experience serious problems such as depression and relationship issues.

The current findings suggest that women whose parents divorced are more likely to enter marriage with relatively lower commitment to, and confidence in, the future of those marriages, potentially raising their risk for divorce. (Source)

The Academic Effects of Divorce on Children

Several studies show that children often fall behind in math upon their parents’ filing for divorce. In fact, children exposed to divorce are twice as likely to repeat a grade. Furthermore, studies from the early 1980s show that children who experienced divorce earned lower grades than their peers and were rated less pleasant to be around.

New research suggests divorce, not the discord leading up to it, can negatively impact kids’ performance at school. In a study of 3,500 children, those whose parents divorced between the first and third grade scored lower in math and had poorer interpersonal skills than those whose parents stayed married. (Source)

Potential Positive Lessons Children Learn From Divorce

Although divorce can certainly have a negative impact on children, some children of divorced parents experience positive effects of divorce. Oftentimes, they use these positive effects to improve their future.

Children of Divorce Often Develop Resiliency

Children with divorced parents often experience varying lifestyles of their separated parents. Therefore, these children must learn to adapt and develop coping strategies that children of non-divorced parents often learn later in life. When children are forced to overcome these obstacles and deal with change, they can become more resilient.

Children of Divorce Often Become More Self-Sufficient

Split families often result in economic challenges for single parents. For example, a parent may need to leave older children home alone after school or require more help with household chores. These situations can result in more self-sufficient and confident children.

Children of Divorce Often Develop More Empathy

Divorce can be shocking for children; however, it can also make them more sympathetic to the problems of those around them. Oftentimes, children of divorce are more empathetic with their peers because they have personally experienced a loss.

Children of Divorce May Spend More Quality Time With Parents

When parents are divorced, family time shifts to spending time with each parent separately. These separate times offer a different bonding experience as a child is able to spend personal time with each parent. Therefore, children often learn more about their mother and father as individuals in this environment.

Furthermore, divorced parents – particularly dads – tend to set aside more one-on-one time with their children. This devoted time results from the need to share custody and visitation.

Children of Divorce May View Marriage Differently

Children from divorced families have personally experienced the loss of a failed marriage. Luckily, this experience may provide them with a better perspective on the hard work of making a marriage successful. For example, some children of divorce have been known to spend more conscientious time focusing on how to make their marriage better than their parents’. On the other hand, some children of divorced parents decide not to get married at all.

Divorce is not easy on parents or children. If you are considering filing for divorce in California, contact A People’s Choice for help. We can draft and file your divorce papers at a very low cost. Plus, we can also refer you to counselors to help your family get through this tough time and adjust to your new family dynamic.


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