What impact can separation and divorce have on children?

30 Nov 2021

Research has shown that for young children, the experience of separation and divorce in childhood can influence their psychological health in adulthood.

Separation and divorce can be an extremely challenging and painful time for parents and may lead to emotional turmoil, particularly if it was unexpected.

Whilst the parents are dealing with their own feelings and going through the grieving process for the loss of the relationship, there is a risk that the parents will lose sight of the impact of the separation on the children.

Young children can experience feelings of fear and anxiety about being abandoned by the parent who is leaving and of not being good enough for that parent. This may manifest itself in the children exhibiting issues such as separation anxiety, attention seeking behaviours or regression.

Older children are adept at manipulation and sometimes use these skills to play parents off against each other by seeking to please the parent they are with, or even trying to make their parents love each other, assuming responsibility for putting the family back together again.

Adolescents, whilst becoming more independent, are still developing emotionally. They may feel anger, sadness, embarrassment, guilt and isolation, leading to academic issues, problems with their peers and their own social behaviour. Difficulties may be experienced with risk taking, alcohol, drugs and diet.

When deciding to separate therefore, it is essential for the sake of the children that a plan is discussed and agreed between the parents as to who the children are to be informed of the decision, when and where this will take place and that the parents agree how they will respond to the questions the children will have or deal with their reactions.

Even if the separation is amicable and the children appear to have understood and accepted the situation, they may still experience feelings of loss whilst adjusting to the change in their family life and will need time to come to terms with this. Both parents must cooperate with each other and have a joined-up approach to support and assist their children.

Good, clear and child-focused communication between the parents is therefore vital. Parents would benefit from considering Resolution’s Parenting Charter The Parenting Charter | Resolution and the wealth of material on their website Looking for help? | Resolution which provides extremely useful hints and tips to assist both parents and their children navigate their way through these difficult times. Trethowans Family Team, who are all members of Resolution and subscribe to the Code of Practice by committing to resolve issues in a non-confrontational and constructive way are able to provide advice and assistance to parents and have strong links with other professionals who can provide additional support where required.

Dawn Gore specialises in arrangements for children following parental separation or divorce. If you need help with a parental responsibility matter, contact Dawn today on 01722 426 945 or get in touch here.