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Divorce and Childhood Trauma: What Parents Need to Know

Oct. 24, 2023

Childhood Trauma and Divorce: What Parents Need to Know

One of the biggest challenges parents face when going through a divorce is trying to help their children cope with this difficult transition. While it is expected that the divorce will be emotional and challenging for both partners, parents may also worry about the potential impact on their children. Is there a chance that their divorce could cause childhood trauma in their children? 

There is research indicating that there is a correlation between divorce and mental health issues in children. But the good news is that most trauma associated with divorce is short-lived for children. However, every child will have a different experience when their parents get divorced, making it important that parents be on the lookout for potential signs of trauma and distress. Keep reading as we explore the potential psychological effects divorce can have on children.

The First Year Is the Toughest

While you may worry about the long-term impacts of the divorce on your children, the good news is that the effects likely won't last. Research indicates that kids struggle the most during the first year or two after a divorce. During this time, kids are likely to experience a variety of symptoms including distress, depression, anxiety, and even denial. Fortunately, kids are resilient and will bounce back as they get used to the changes in their daily routines. Additional short-term symptoms a child may experience following divorce include:

  • Poor Performance in School: Divorce can have a significant temporary effect on a child's school performance. During the first year or two following divorce, children may experience a number of school difficulties including low performance, increased absences due to family problems, and they may even start skipping school.

  • Anger: Children often experience a myriad of emotions following a divorce, many of which they may not know how to properly express, which can result in feelings of anger or irritability. It is important to acknowledge the cause of these feelings and help support your child during this difficult time. This can help them learn to better navigate their emotions.

  • Regression: Regression is commonly seen in younger children struggling to cope with divorce. The intense emotions they are experiencing can result in the return of behaviors they had previously outgrown. This can include bedwetting, temper tantrums, and reverting back to babyish behavior. While this behavior is not uncommon, it is a red flag that professional help may be needed. 

Understanding Childhood Trauma: Potential Long-Term Effects of Divorce on Children

Many children adapt to their new lifestyle relatively quickly after their parents get divorced. Others may suffer from long-lasting effects due to the trauma of the divorce. This is particularly true if they feel in some way guilty about their parents' divorce. In these instances, children may struggle with mental health problems including anxiety and depression, particularly if their parents had a contentious divorce. 

Children of divorce may also struggle with fears of abandonment later in life, which can also make it more difficult for them to build long-lasting romantic relationships. This is why it is often beneficial to have children talk to a counselor or therapist following a divorce. A therapist can help them cope with their emotions, reducing the likelihood that they will experience lasting trauma.     

Contact an Experienced Divorce Attorney

The most important thing to remember when navigating a divorce as a parent is that you do not have to go through this difficult time alone. An experienced divorce lawyer can be instrumental in helping you navigate the complexities of divorce, and they can help provide you with the support that you need during this difficult time.

Feel free to contact us to schedule a consultation today and take your first step toward resolving your divorce as painlessly as possible.