Short-Term Effects of Divorce on Children
To one degree or another, all children feel the short-term effects of divorce. In a low-conflict divorce, children may sense that their parents are not happy but not be particularly troubled by it, so when the parents announce their intention to part, the children lose their footing. Children often feel more burdened and less cared for. When parents cannot talk to each other during a divorce, their angry conflict adds great stress to the lives of small children, who, it must be remembered, love each parent by the entirety.
Parents must remember that a child’s world is a small one where his or her father and mother are pillars. When one disappears, a child loses his bearings, his sense of normality. Anger, sadness, depression, opposition, aggression, non-compliance, perceived parental loss, interpersonal conflict, economic hardship, life stress, less parental supervision, inconsistent discipline, more negative sanctions, lower school achievement, acting out, lower self esteem, social adjustment problems, and increased dependency - all may result during the days between separation and divorce. However, during the separation and after the divorce is final, positive steps by both parents can mitigate the intensity and reduce the duration of most adjustment problems.
Parents must try to see their divorce from the child’s point of view rather than their perspective, write Dr. Sean Brotherston and Brenda Jacobson of the North Dakota State University Extension Service. "In divorce, adults typically deal with logistical or external decisions and issues, while children often face uncertainty, internal feelings and changes that result from the divorce process." Adults concern themselves with the external issues of deciding where to live, schools for the children, managing the legal divorce, dividing the marital estate, paying the bills and providing "sufficient and much needed daily are to children"; children, in contrast, face "more internal issues," such as grieving about the physical absence of a parent, "coping with the stress of multiple changes at once," seeking control over the situation and "accepting reassurance that they are not at fault for the divorce."
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PARENTING CLASSES -- In some jurisdictions, parenting classes for the parents of minors are now required as a preliminary to divorce. The classes teach parents how to minimize the negative effects of divorce on their children and serve to restate parental responsibilities in the context of divorce. They are not an eleventh-hour attempt at marriage counseling.
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