Divorce rates in both England and Wales are at their lowest since 1973, but that doesn’t stop it being a popular topic in the media. When two people decide to part ways, this can affect those beyond the couple. Children of divorce are faced with immense negative feelings and experiences. Therefore, it’s important to consider how children’s mental health can be affected by divorce.
Not all divorces are as dramatic as depicted in films. However, more often than not, they can be a turbulent period, intensive of arguments, and stark unhappiness. For a child of any age, being subject to extended periods of time within this environment can be incredibly troubling. In this article, we take a look at the mental health implications for children who are caught up in the middle of a marital breakdown. We will also analyse what you, as a parent, can do to help them.
It doesn’t matter if your child is an infant or a teenager, the amount of change they will experience is bound to have negative effects. For a younger child progressing through their developmental years, having one parent moving out of the house can be confusing. At this young age, it is unclear as to ‘why mum or dad is no longer around all the time anymore’, and ‘when we go to do something, why are mum and dad not doing it together, with me?’.
Studies have found that older children can deal with divorce easier than younger children. Despite this, they are the most likely to brunt the effect of change. The breakdown of a marriage could mean them moving to a new house, moving school, or no longer seeing one of their parents. It could also mean the family is less well-off financially. This can have a substantial impact on a child’s life, and their mental health. For example, in the past, your child may have been able to go away on a school trip each year with their friends, whether it be skiing or a pre-summer break to a log cabin.
Less money means you might not be able to afford things that you once could. This will irritate and upset a child who has grown accustom to such a lifestyle.
Understanding Bad Behaviour
When you have introduced family law solicitors to start with the divorce, remember to be understanding of your children’s feelings. A failure to understand a situation can develop into frustration, and in many cases, this requires a ventilation of anger. Often, with one parent is absent, the consistent level of discipline that was once there has now been removed. Rather than dishing out punishment for bad behaviour, try to understand the position in which the child finds themselves in. Remember, they are currently going through a rollercoaster of emotions. Therefore, be patient and take into consideration the way you are acting around them.
Children are constantly absorbing their surroundings. So, if one parent is badmouthing another, they are likely to pick up on this and replicate it. Although the situation between both co-parents may be rather toxic, for the sake of the child’s emotional stability, communication is key. Monitoring behaviour around both parents, particularly if they are now living in different homes, is an effective way to quash any behavioural issues.
A stable learning environment is essential in maintaining a child’s mental health. Research has discovered that children who grow up a two-parent, married family are more likely to do better at school. They are more likely to be less disruptive in class, and less aggressive towards other classmates.
Children with parents who are still together perform better in education — a research study by the BBC in 2014 found that 65 per cent of children whose parents had divorced performed worse than expected in their GCSE results. 44 per cent also insinuated that their A-Level results had suffered. Resolution, who conducted the research, proposed that the disruption of moving school could be at fault for the exam results.
Although many may believe that they are benefitting their children by staying together, this isn’t the best thing to do. Children exposed to unhappy environments will likely have unhappy relationships themselves when they are older. Whatever you decide to do, consider how this will impact your children.