How Does Divorce Affect Kids?

Divorce is not just between two spouses – it reverberates through the entire family and can carry significant emotional weight, particularly for children. As parents negotiate the complexities of separation, understanding the possible impact on their children becomes a critical aspect of navigating the process with compassion and awareness.

Recognizing and actively addressing the emotional and psychological challenges that children may encounter during divorce is crucial. Keep reading to delve deeper into this topic.

The Emotional Impact of Divorce on Children

Mental Health

Divorce can often evoke a variety of emotions in children, which in turn can contribute to mental health difficulties. For instance, a study conducted in 2021 surveyed 1810 Lebanese teenage students to investigate the impact of divorce on their mental well-being.

The findings revealed that children from divorced families exhibited higher levels of:

  • Depression
  • Social fear
  • Avoidance
  • Suicidal ideation


Children may grieve the loss of the intact family unit, experiencing a sense of mourning akin to other types of loss. Similar to parents going through a divorce, children can also go through the grief cycle.

The grief cycle includes the following stages:

  • Shock and denial
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Dialogue and bargaining
  • Acceptance

It is important for parents and caregivers to provide support and understanding during this challenging time to help children navigate their emotions and adjust to the new family dynamic.

Emotional Sensitivity

Divorce can heighten a child's emotional sensitivity, rendering them more vulnerable to environmental stresses and interpersonal dynamics. This transition can evoke a myriad of emotions such as loss, anger, confusion, and anxiety.

Recognizing the significance of divorce, it is important to acknowledge that it can leave children feeling overwhelmed and in need of a safe space to express their emotions.

Behavioral Changes and Acting Out

It's common for kids to show changes in their behavior following a divorce. Some might exhibit destructive behaviors as a way to cope or to express their confusion and hurt. This could range from aggression and defiance to a decline in academic performance.

For example, according to the University of Missouri, toddlers can exhibit the following after divorce:

  • Increased crying or tantrums
  • Loss of appetite
  • Becoming more fussy
  • Hitting
  • Loss of bladder control
  • And more

At any age, children can experience stress in the aftermath of a divorce. It is important for parents and caregivers to be aware of these potential changes in behavior and provide support and guidance during this time.

Shifting Views on Personal Relationships

Children who experience caregiver separation may develop new attitudes toward relationships and marriage. These attitudes can manifest in various ways, such as feeling reluctant to start committed relationships due to fear of separation or abandonment.

Additionally, they may perceive fewer benefits to traditional marriage and be more open to exploring alternative relationship structures. It is important to provide support and understanding to children who have gone through divorce, as their experiences can shape their perspectives on love and commitment.

Supporting Your Child Through Divorce

Guiding children through the tumultuous period of a divorce requires patience, love, and proactive communication.

A few tips on helping your child through divorce include:

  • Reassurance: Let children know that the divorce is not their fault and that both caregivers still love them and will be there for them.
  • Avoid conflict: Minimize conflicts in front of children to prevent distress and confusion. Avoid putting them in a position where they feel they have to choose sides.
  • Patience: Understand that children may need time to process the changes. Be patient and give them the space they need to cope.
  • Validation: Acknowledge and validate children's feelings. Let them know that it is okay to feel sad, angry, or confused.
  • Seek support: If your child is struggling, consider seeking counseling or therapy to provide them with the necessary support.

Divorce can present significant challenges for children as they navigate through a period of change and adjustment. However, with care, understanding, and thoughtful guidance, you can play a crucial role in alleviating some of the stress and uncertainty they may experience during this time.

Get in Touch with Our Legal Team

If you find yourself at a crossroads, contemplating the difficult decision of divorce, or if you have already been served with legal papers, our dedicated team of divorce attorneys can provide unwavering support throughout your entire journey. We understand the complexities and emotional challenges that come with this process, and we are committed to guiding you with compassion every step of the way.

Moreover, at Family Law San Diego, we go beyond divorce representation. Our comprehensive services extend to matters of child custody and child support, where we offer empathetic and knowledgeable guidance to work towards protecting the best interests of your children.

Your family's well-being is one of our top priorities. Get in touch with our team today at (619) 577-4900 or send us a message online.