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Effect of divorce on children's mental health

Many parents are worried about how their children will respond to the news that they are divorcing. It's normal to want to be prepared to handle your children's questions and emotions as positively as possible, but it's also important to have a realistic idea of what a normal and healthy emotional response to a divorce is.

A recent study spearheaded by a professor from the University of Montreal found that children tend to deal with stress, anxiety and sometimes even depressive symptoms for up to four to nine months after the divorce. While it can be tempting to want to try to steer children in a more cheerful direction, it's important not to dismiss their emotions.

This particular study shows that having a negative emotional response to a divorce is a normal and healthy reaction, and it shows that the children are going through the necessary steps to process the event and grieve the loss of the intact family. A divorce can also be a serious disruption in the daily lives of children, from losing friends from changing school districts to having to deal with parents' new partners, and there may be additional emotional fallout from these situations as well.

Experts stress the importance of listening to and validating the children's feelings as well as giving them the time and space they need to come to terms with the divorce and go through the range of emotions. Research has also shown that how amicable the divorce is and how well the parents are able to communicate in regards to the children after the separation can have a significant impact on how well the children transition. This is a strong argument for working with an attorney to have a positive divorce experience.

Source: U.S. News, "Minding the Kids in Divorce: Minimizing the Mental Health Impact," Michael O. Schroeder, accessed Jan. 28, 2016

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