16 Days of Activism for no Violence against Women and Children runs from the 25th November to 10th December. In connection with this, this week on Radio Islam we will be looking at the sufferings of children at the time of divorce. It might not always involve violence but the emotional and psychological abuse is tragic, and sometimes horrific.
By discussing this issue, we are not advocating for divorce nor are we saying that divorce should not be considered. The question of whether a couple should get divorced or not is not part of this discussion. Here we are simply discussing the effects on children during a divorce and the dangers when it is not handled correctly.
The Psychological Effects of Divorce on Children
Why the First Year Is the Toughest
As you might expect, research has found that kids struggle the most during the first year or two after the divorce. Kids are likely to experience distress, anger, anxiety, and disbelief.
But many kids seem to bounce back. They get used to changes in their daily routines and they grow comfortable with their living arrangements. Others, however, never really seem to go back to “normal.” This small percentage of children may experience ongoing—possibly even lifelong—problems after their parents’ divorce.
Emotional Impact of Divorce
Divorce creates emotional turmoil for the entire family, but for kids, the situation can be quite scary, confusing, and frustrating:
Young children often struggle to understand why they must go between two homes. They may worry that if their parents can stop loving one another that someday, their parents may stop loving them.
Primary school children may worry that the divorce is their fault. They may fear they misbehaved or they may assume they did something wrong.
Teenagers may become quite angry about a divorce and the changes it creates. They may blame one parent for the dissolution of the marriage or they may resent one or both parents for the upheaval in the family.
Of course, each situation is unique. In extreme circumstances, a child may feel relieved by the separation—if a divorce means fewer arguments and less stress.
Divorce usually means children lose daily contact with one parent—most often fathers. Decreased contact affects the parent-child bond and according to a paper published, researchers have found many children feel less close to their fathers after divorce.
Divorce also affects a child’s relationship with the custodial parent—most often mothers. Primary caregivers often report higher levels of stress associated with single parenting.
A study published in 2013 suggested that mothers are often less supportive and less affectionate after divorce. Additionally, their discipline becomes less consistent and less effective.
For some children, parental separation isn’t the hardest part. Instead, the accompanying stressors are what make divorce the most difficult. Changing schools, moving to a new home, and living with a single parent who feels a little more frazzled are just a few of the additional stressors that make divorce difficult.
Financial hardships are also common following divorce. Many families have to move to smaller homes or change neighbourhoods and they often have fewer material resources.