Family Law

How Does Divorce Affect the Children Emotionally?

By Kristina Otterstrom, Attorney
Addressing the impact of your divorce on your kids.

Divorce’s Impact on Parent-Child Relationships

Parents and children alike are affected by divorce. The household dynamic shifts with one parent out of the house and children splitting time between two households. This is only magnified if one parent remarries. A stepparent may vie to take over the other parent’s role or a parent may be jealous of a child’s new relationship with a stepparent. Children pick up on adults’ feelings of discomfort and can end up mirroring adult insecurities.

Your job as a parent is to remain a stable force for your children while their world has been upended by divorce. Things may initially feel different with your child. Sometimes, one parent may try to alienate the child from the other parent. However, it’s important to recognize your child’s emotions likely come from insecurity about the situation, not any diminishment of love for you. Be sure to take the time to listen to your children’s concerns and feelings during and after the divorce process.

Managing Visitation Schedules

Divorce will significantly effect the amount of time you spend with your kids. This change can be especially unsettling to children who are accustomed to spending time together as a family during the holidays. However, parents can have a say in how holidays will be split. For example, if your children spent every Christmas at their maternal grandmother’s cabin, your spouse and the court may agree to let that tradition continue for the children.

In some situations, parents may not be happy about having to split holidays or trade off Thanksgiving and Birthdays every other year. It may also be an adjustment as your children get used to spending every other weekend with mom and most weeknights with dad. Keep in mind that your children may feel just as conflicted about the change to their life. As a parent, your positive attitude in the midst of a negative situation can help your kids cope with the changes that necessarily come with divorce.

When Divorce Means Relocation

The goal of every custody case is to come up with a parenting arrangement that serves a child’s best interests. Sometimes this means a child will end up moving out of their current neighborhood or school to live with the designated parent. A disruption like relocation can be challenging for a child, especially if the move means the child will lose contact with longtime friends.

As a parent, you can help your child cope with these emotions by being a listening ear. It’s also helpful to get your child involved in activities in their new home so that they can begin to make new friendships to replace the old. For example, if your child took gymnastics or dance lessons or participated in a sports team, you can take away some of the sting of moving by continuing these activities and giving them a way to meet new friends.

Divorce is never easy—whether you’re the parent or the child. Children can be especially upset by their parents’ divorce, so it's important to assure your child that your love for them will never fade.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • My spouse is making my divorce very contentious and it’s affecting our kids. What can I do?
  • I will be moving with my child out-of-state after my divorce is final. How can I help my son cope with the move?
  • How can I work through a holiday visitation agreement with my spouse that puts our kids first?
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