Child of Divorce

Dr. Kanchan Dilawari    24-01-2016 Consult

DIVORCE is hardly an exception now. In fact, with the rate of marriages steadily dipping over the past decade, divorce rate holding steady, you are likely to know more previously married couples than those who are legally bound. Accompanying this trend are multiple studies analyzing the effects that divorce has on children. And the results aren't good, even if the stigma of divorce has faded.

The psychological effects of divorce on children can be devastating and many divorcing couples are completely oblivious to how their "War of the Roses" has lasting effects on their children. It is said: "Children are always the losers in divorce." Unfortunately, parents do not think about the consequences of how they treat their soon to be ex-spouse and how they continue to malign them in front of their children who often feel loyal to both parents. These children or adolescents are often manipulated by their parents for personal, social or financial reasons.

The stress that is caused to the children can lead to anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and delinquent behavior leading to them developing suicidal tendencies. It has been noted by psychologists that children also face academic problems, anger problems and sleep disorders. The younger ones may revert to bedwetting and have bowel problems.

Boys and girls tend to react differently to their parents' divorce. As a rule, girls tend to become anxious and withdrawn, while boys tend to become more aggressive and disobedient. Girls from divorced families may become sexually active earlier than girls from intact families. Interestingly, boys often adjust better when their mothers remarry, while girls have more difficulty. Children of divorced families tend to have long-term adjustment difficulties when there is on going conflict between their parents. Boys, in particular, are likely to display marked behavior problems when this exists. Children's adjustment is also determined by the amount of conflict their parents had before divorce.

Therefore, it becomes the responsibility of parents to find ways to mediate and minimize the destructive effects on their children. Working with mediators getting the entire family into family therapy, getting the divorcing couple to go to couples therapy to do "un-coupling" therapy and/or sending the children or adolescents for individual therapy are all great ways to assure good mental and physical health for the children. Sometimes, medication or alternative medicine could also benefit the children of divorce.

One of the major problems for the children of divorce is that they often blame themselves and think: "It's my fault that my parents are divorcing." "There must be something wrong in me." "If I do X, Y or Z, I can get my parents back together again." These children need psychological services to understand that their guilt feelings have nothing to do with the conflicts of their parents. A good Psychologist can help them work through their guilt, restore their self-esteem and help them resolve anxiety, depression, substance abuse and any harmful thoughts or behaviors that they might have as a result of the devastating effects that separation and/or divorce have on them and their family unit.

As stated, the benefits of counseling or psychotherapy are immense for children from divorced homes. Psychologists can provide enormous benefits for children and adolescents suffering from low self-esteem, anxiety and depression to name a few difficulties. Individual, group or family therapy are the methods most often used by Counselors or Psychologists to help such children. Play therapy or art therapy are great adjuncts to more traditional therapy, especially with younger children who are not very verbal or simply too young to express themselves as older adolescents are more skilled to do.

This is my message to divorcing couples - "Think about your child's mental and emotional growth before you part ways with your partner."

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