Although divorce rates in England and Wales are as low as rates in 1973, it’s still an area of society discussed incessantly in the media. It’s a tragic time for couples who decide to part ways, but it can be just as devastating for the children.
Obviously not all divorces are intense battles drawn out over years like in films. But, more often than not, they can be a turbulent period, with intense arguments and unhappiness.
No matter the age of the child, being in a family essentially split in half can be very stressful. In this article, we take a look at the mental health implications for children who are caught up in the middle of a marital breakdown. We will also analyse what you, as a parent, can do to help them.
It doesn’t matter if a child is four or 17, the amount of change their family dynamic will experience is going to have significant effects. After all, it’s all they’ve known. If you decide to bring family law solicitors into the mix, for a younger child progressing through their developmental years, having one parent moving out of the house can be confusing.
For young children, they probably won’t understand why one of their parents isn’t around as much anymore.
Studies have shown that older children can process divorces easier than younger children. Despite this, they are the most likely to bear the brunt of the effect of change. The breakdown of a marriage could mean them moving to a new house, moving school, or no longer seeing one of their parents. It could also mean the family is less well-off financially, which could irritate and upset a child who has grown accustomed to such a lifestyle as they could feel like they are being punished.
Unsurprisingly, this can have detrimental effects on a child’s life, and most importantly their mental health. For example, in the past, your child may have been able to go away on a school trip each year with their friends, whether it be skiing or a pre-summer break.
An important issue to remember with your children is a lack of understanding. A failure to understand a situation can develop into frustration, and in many cases, this can result in anger.
It isn’t unusual for a child to become disobedient and naughty when one parent is absent. Rather than dishing out punishment for bad behaviour, try to understand the position in which the child finds themselves. Try not to forget that they are currently going through a rollercoaster of emotions. Therefore, be patient and take into consideration the way you are acting around them.
Children are particularly observant and although you might not realise, they pick up a lot. So, if one parent is badmouthing another, they are likely to pick up on this and replicate it. Although the situation between both co-parents may be rather toxic, for the sake of the child’s emotional stability, communication is key. Monitoring behaviour around both parents, particularly if they are now living in different homes, is an effective way to quash any behavioural issues.
A stable learning environment will help your child cope with change and manage their mental health. Research has discovered that children who grow up in a two-parent, married family are more likely to do better at school. They are more likely to be less disruptive in class, and less aggressive towards other classmates. In terms of their academic performance, children whose parents’ marriage is intact are more likely to do their work without being forced.
Research by BBC in 2014 found that 65 per cent of children with divorced parents achieved worse than expected results in their GCSE exams, while 44 per cent believed that their A-Level results were affected. Resolution, who conducted the research, proposed that the disruption of moving school could be at fault for the exam results.
Although it can affect children, parents shouldn’t suffer the burden of staying together just for their children. Staying together can have negative effects because children notice unhappy environments and can base their future relationships off those of their parents. Ultimately, the child will learn to adapt with their right support.