Divorcing Before Children are Grown - Aspects to Consider

Being the traumatic experience that a divorce is, it is unlikely there is ever an ideal time to do this. And yet when the estranged couple has kids, especially young ones, breaking up the family seems the most heartrending thing to do. So if you find yourself in a similar situation – with young children and contemplating a divorce, here are some aspects to consider.

Emotional impact

It goes without saying, that children are always affected by a divorce, no matter how amicable or low-conflict it is. The family is the first place where children learn life skills and get ready to be part of the larger society. Parents are the first resources of unconditional love, emotional support, material security and cultural skills for children. A divorce leads this family unit to fall apart and the consequences are devastating for young children. The loss of a parent makes them feel emotionally as well as physically insecure and afraid of being discarded just like the parent who has gone away. Kids who are older though are more likely to understand the intricacies of human relationships and accepting of the fact that this is not a perfect world where good things last forever.

TIP: Read about how the manifestation miracle can help you fulfill your desires.

Psychological effect

The psychological impact of a divorce on young children can be especially significant since this is a time when their personality is still developing. Unlike older kids who have achieved a measure of stability of character, most children of broken families are likely to suffer from a debilitating loss of self-esteem and think that they are worthless or bad. One of the curious psychological effects is a sense of guilt in kids of divorced parents who feel that somehow the divorce is their fault. They think that the parent who left did so because of them or because he/she does not love them anymore. Young children are also likely to go into depression, unable to deal with the acute feelings of loss and grief. Often the parent with whom the children are left is too busy coping with his/her own feelings of pain and betrayal. This leads to further feelings of loneliness and abandonment and the young ones have absolutely no idea who they can turn to.

Different age groups react differently

People often mistakenly feel that a baby or toddler is too young to understand the loss of a parent and finds it easier to forget him/her after a while. Even though the young one is unaware of the details of what is happening, he/she can still catch on a parent’s distress. Thus babies or toddlers going through the ordeal of their parent’s divorce may regress to an earlier development stage such as bed wetting or needing a bottle even after they had been successfully weaned. Kids between five and eight may be easier to comfort in words but they are the ones to feel the loss of a parent most acutely and may end up insecure, fearful and depressed. Children between the ages of nine and twelve are more likely to respond with rage over the injustice of the situation thrust on them and their helplessness in being unable to do anything about it. Older kids above the age of thirteen can somewhat comprehend the complexities of human relationships but may in turn respond by rebellious and defiant behavior with an increased tendency to break rules and test limits within the family as well as the larger society.

Apart from the emotional and psychological consequences of a divorce on young kids, their material circumstances could also change for the worse. A divorce usually entails extensive legal costs because of which there may be less money at home which in turn may lead to absence of outings, hobby classes, privileges and vacations for younger kids. In fact certain comforts which they have been used to all these years may have to be cut down and sometimes they may even have to compromise on necessities. Straitened finances are one major reason why many marriages continue to limp along since a divorce would entail not only legal fees but also long term expenses in the form of alimony, child support and simply maintaining two households instead of one.

Even when the divorce does not result in financial loss, the material changes can be very difficult to cope with. Worst of all, even what they know as home may change – with the divorce resulting in a new place to stay, new city to relocate too and new school to attend. The grief at the loss of a stable family is further accentuated by loss of the old home, old friends and a familiar support network, all of which are particularly keenly felt by younger kids than those who are already grown up and have moved out.

However if you are continuing in an unhappy marriage so as to wait until your kids are older before you divorce, you may be wasting your time. Many times grown up kids of broken homes wish their parents had just gotten a divorce earlier so they could all start over. Such kids feel when their parents stay together for “the kids' sake” it keeps the family in limbo and the home in constant turmoil. And in fact experts constantly point out that rather the real harm is in exposing younger kids to repeated conflict, whether in an unhappy marriage or a messy divorce. Thus a divorce which is handled amicably and which protects the kids’ needs – physical, emotional, financial – like through effective co-parenting may be ultimately preferable to mistaken attempts at protecting them from the emotional and financial devastation of a divorce only to have them fall prey to the trauma that comes from a high-conflict home life.

So if you have young children and are staring at the prospect of a divorce, talk to counselors and therapists on what would be the best way to help them cope with the breaking apart of the family. Consult legal experts on how best to protect their financial and material interests so that the trauma of the experience is somewhat eased. In fact under certain circumstances like domestic violence, marital or substance abuse, it is best to leave the marriage as soon as possible instead of hanging on and endangering your own as well as your kids’ safety.