Effects of Divorce on Children

"Is My Child Okay?"

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Many parents worry about the effects of divorce on their children. It's important to remember, though, that every family and every child is different. As a parent, it's up to you to recognize when your child is crying out for help.

The Effects of Divorce on Children

Children tend to be far more resilient than adults. With your help, your entire family will eventually adjust to the changes you're experiencing right now.

However, it's important to know that the effects of divorce will likely play out differently for each of your children as they progress through various developmental stages. Therefore, you should be aware of specific effects of divorce for every stage of development, including:

Wallerstein and the "Rule of Thirds"

According to Judith S. Wallerstein and Joan B. Kelly, authors of Surviving the Breakup: How Children and Parents Cope With Divorce, approximately one-third of children of divorce do well five to ten years down the road. Another third show some difficulties coping, and the remaining third experience more serious problems.

Warning Signs

Some of the more common warning signs that children are having difficulty coping include sudden, unexplained changes in behavior, sleep, or eating habits. Fortunately, though, your response has the power to dramatically improve the outcome for your child.

Don't be afraid to seek help early and often, and never ignore red flags that your child needs immediate help, such as becoming violently aggressive, self-medicating with alcohol or drugs, cutting, or expressing suicidal thoughts. Any concerns you have should be shared immediately with your child's doctor or therapist, who can best refer you to sources of assistance in your local area.

Wallerstein, Judith S., and Joan B. Kelly. Surviving the Breakup: How Children and Parents Cope With Divorce. New York: Basic Books, 1996. Print.

Wilson, Elaine, Brenda Sheik, and Tammy Fowler. Co-Parenting. Stillwater, Oklahoma: Oklahoma State University. PDF file.