Wouldn’t life be nice if all marriages worked out? Unfortunately, they don’t. Many end in divorce.
That separation affects children. The question is, how much?
The answer: Divorce is almost always stressful for children and can impact kids as young as four.
But divorce impacts every child differently, says Jean Russner, clinical manager at Outpatient Behavior Health at Holland Hospital. The effects depend on the temperament and age of the children and how the parents handle the divorce.
“You want to be careful of boundaries,” Russner said. “Just like you wouldn’t discuss certain things with young children, even teenage children, there are aspects in that marital relationship and the conflict within that marital relationship that don’t need to be known.”
During Russner’s time as a therapist, she has found that kids often feel sad, mad or anxious. They begin to question things. They can feel like one of the parents is leaving them. And they frequently become more defiant, because they feel like they can’t control what’s happening at home.
Sometimes children become clingy, have separation anxiety, and can even have trouble keeping long-term relationships when they grow up.
Russner says it’s important to let your child form their own opinions of the situation and make sure to remind your children that the divorce wasn’t their fault and they they are loved, “that mom and dad are having some issues that we just couldn’t work it out. It was not because you were naughty or bad, and that we know this is going to be rough, and we’re going to do as much as we can to get through this all together.”