Behavioral Issues In Children of Divorced Parents
Divorce can be a source of stress and challenge for a family unit. It can be difficult to create new dynamics within the family as children begin to spend time with their parents separately. It can be difficult for parents who worry about how divorce will affect their children. With all the change that comes with divorce, it is not uncommon for children to have behavior issues during their parents’ divorce.
Children may react in different ways depending on their age and development. Young children may struggle to understand why they have to go back and forth between homes. They may worry that if their parents stopped loving each other then there is the possibility that their parents will stop loving them someday. Grade school children may worry that the divorce is their fault. They may believe that they misbehaved or did something wrong that caused their parents to fight and separate. Older teens often feel angry about divorce and the changes it creates. If they are close to one parent, they may blame or resent the other.
Common Behavioral Issues
- Withdrawing Socially: Children who were outgoing may become shy or anxious. They may avoid social situations or spending time with friends. They may experience a drop in confidence or self-esteem.
- School Struggles: Kids may experience a drop in academics during a divorce. They could be feeling neglected, depressed, or distracted by events at home.
- Separation Anxiety: Younger children may show signs of separation anxiety, which may look like increased crying or clinging to parents.
- Regression: Younger children may experience behavioral regressions such as clinginess or temper tantrums. Regression may be a sign of increased stress if they are having difficulty with the transition.
- Picking Sides: During divorce, children go through both cognitive dissonance and a conflict with loyalty. They may feel stuck in the middle or that they need to choose a side.
- Depression: Children often feel sad about the divorce, but studies have shown that children of divorces are at risk of developing clinical depression. This is more prominent with children11 years and older.
- Engaging in Risky Behaviors: Alcohol and drug abuse and aggressive behavior are possible. They may also experience their own relationship struggles as they work to find healthy romantic relationships.
Talking with your child can help them understand what is happening with their family. Remind them that you and your partner will always love them no matter what. Let them know that they can ask you questions and that they will be safe during this transition. It is also important to remember that, even when it is difficult, it is important to be civil with your partner for the benefit of your children. That includes not talking poorly about your partner or encouraging your child to talk negatively about their parent. A therapist can help your child work through their emotions around the divorce. A mental health professional also gives children the opportunity to talk freely about what they are going through without worrying about offending one parent or the other.
Equinox RTC Can Help
With decades of experience working with adolescents in residential treatment, our founding team developed a clinically intensive, trauma-informed, neurologically-based and adventure-filled program focused on the specific challenges and needs of young men. The Equinox Difference focuses on respected, evidence-based approaches to the recovery from trauma, loss, depression, anxiety, relationship deterioration, and impulsive and addictive behaviors. Our holistic approach–which treats the mind, body, and soul–is just one aspect that sets us apart from other treatment programs for troubled teens. For more information please call (828) 414-2968.