By Beau Black
Healing from divorce is a process for all involved: It takes time, effort, and commitment for anyone affected to recover from divorce trauma. Though divorce impacts all parties, its effects on the children can be especially detrimental. Children of divorced parents are more likely to struggle in school, deal with addiction, and suffer depression.
Though divorce impacts all parties, its effects on the children can be especially detrimental.
The American Psychological Association (APA) reports the following federal government statistics on divorce in America:
- Over 20% of marriages fail in their first five years.
- About 48% of marriages will end in divorce within their first 20 years.
And according to the National Library of Medicine (NLM), only 60% of US children reside with their “married, biological parents,” placing us second lowest only to Latvia in Western nations. These statistics equate to a huge number of people directly impacted by and needing healing from divorce.
NLM research has also revealed an association between divorce and an increased risk of adjustment problems for youth, including “academic difficulties (e.g., lower grades and school dropout), disruptive behaviors (e.g., conduct and substance use problems), and depressed mood.” Children of divorce are also more prone to take unnecessary risks sexually, experience poverty, and endure instability in their own families later. Researchers concluded that marital instability presents not just a single risk factor, but a “cascade” of potential consequences for children.
Great, you say (as a child of divorced parents, or a divorced parent of a child). Now, what? Well, you already know the bad news: Post-divorce trauma can be really rough on everyone in the family. But the good news is that with appropriate treatment, both children and parents can repair the damage done and mitigate the above-mentioned effects.
What Can Parents Do?
The APA offers many suggestions for parents to make the divorce and recovery process easier for your children. For starters, parents should avoid thinking of their divorce as a battle. This mindset can reignite (or keep lit) conflicts that led to the divorce, while the kids get caught in the crossfire. Instead, mediation should be used to mitigate conflict and minimize the impact on the children. The APA also recommends the following:
- Strive towards cordial relations with your former or soon-to-be-former spouse, as ongoing conflict increases your child’s risk of psychological and social problems.
- Keep an eye on your child’s performance in school, and intervene if it starts to slip.
- Reduce or delay other changes as much as possible. Moving, for example, can be stressful by itself; a move coupled with divorce is likely to be even more so.
- Involve your kids in at least some decisions to help them feel less out of control, which is typical during divorce.
What Can Kids Do?
Clichés often become clichés because they’re true. That’s the case with “divorce is never the kids’ fault.” It’s normal for children to think things like, Well, if I just did this, or, If I had only done (or not done) this, they’d still be together. This not only places unwarranted guilt on yourself, but it’s unproductive. Instead, try some of the following strategies:
- Stay connected to both of your parents and with other friends and family to maintain support, especially if a move is involved.
- Keep as much of your normal routine as possible to enhance feelings of stability in a time of change, says VeryWellMind.com.
- Talk with a therapist and deal with emotional trauma sooner than later to keep negative emotions from festering or manifesting in self-destructive choices.
- Plan things like a trip or an event to look forward to so that thinking about the future seems less dreadful.
This has become clichéd, but it’s true: Divorce is never the kids’ fault.
Recovery Help from Divorce Trauma
For adults healing from divorce, our Meadows Behavioral Healthcare family provides a variety of resources. Among them are three relevant workshops at Rio Retreat Center: Mending Heartwounds, which addresses grief in a variety of forms, and Survivors 1 and Survivors 2, which are aimed at helping you find freedom from past trauma and hurtful experiences.
And for young adults, our Claudia Black Young Adult Center offers a number of therapies, from the traditional to the innovative, to help treat emotional trauma. If you or someone you love is trying to heal from divorce trauma, treatment is available. Reach out to our friendly admissions staff for more information on any of our programs. We’re here to help.