The Psychological Effects of Divorce on Children

The psychological effects on children of divorce can be devastating and many divorcing couples are completely obvious to how their private “War of the Roses” has lasting effects on their children. It is said: “Children are always the losers in divorce.” Unfortunately, parents do not think about the consequences of how they treat their soon to be ex-spouse and how they continue to malign them in front of their children who often feel loyalty to both parents. These children or adolescents are often manipulated by their parents for personal, social or financial reasons. The stress that this causes the children can lead to anxiety, depression, substance abuse, delinquent behavior and teen pregnancy by the girls. Sometimes, the children even make suicide attempts. It has been noted by Clinicians and Therapists that the children caught in the middle of the parents’ animosity during separation or divorce proceedings have attention and concentration problems; academic problems; anger problems and sleep disorders. Some even have bedwetting and bowel problems. Therefore, it behooves the parents to find ways to mediate and minimize the destructive effects on their children. Working with mediators getting the entire family into family therapy; getting the divorcing couple to go to couples therapy to do “un-coupling” therapy and/or sending the children or adolescents for individual therapy are all great ways to assure good mental and physical health for the children. Sometimes, medication or alternative medicine could also benefit the children of divorce.

One of the major problems for the children of divorce is that they blame themselves often and think: “It’s my fault that my parents are divorcing.” There must be something wrong with me.” “If I do X,Y or Z, I can get my parents back together again.” These children need psychological services to understand that their guilt feelings have nothing to do with the conflicts of their parents. A good Therapist can help them work through their guilt, restore their self-esteem and help them resolve anxiety, depression, substance abuse and any harmful thoughts or behaviors that they might have as a result of the devastating effects that separation and/or divorce have on them and their family unit.

That being said, there are times when a divorce is necessary and even beneficial, even for children. Generally speaking, it is when one or both parent are violent and refuse any type of therapy or treatment (alcohol or drugs, for example). Even the expert on divorce Judith Wallerstein has admitted that divorce is necessary when children are being exposed to violence, or receiving physical , emotional or sexual abuse that cannot be resolved by individual or family therapy. In these instances, the children survive and even thrive in time, having been saved from a harmful environment. Obviously, a parent has got to use wisdom and common sense when a marital and familial situation is untenable or destructive.

As stated, the benefits of counseling or psychotherapy are immense for children from divorced homes. Psychologists, Social Workers and Marriage and Family Therapists can provide enormous benefits for children and adolescents suffering from low self-esteen, anxiety and depression to name a few difficulties. Seasoned and sophisticated attorneys understand the benefits of addressing these issues with a trained professional. They appreciate how a Therapist can alleviate the suffering caused by all too often "warring parties" who are often insensitive to the needs of their offspring. Their children did not ask to be brought into the world and they certainly did not ask to be neglected or pushed aside due to the separation or divorce of their parents.

Individual, group or family therapy are the methods most often used by Counselors or Therapists to help the children. Play therapy or art therapy are great adjuncts to more traditional therapy, especially with younger children who are not very verbal or simply too young to express themselves as older adolescents are more skilled to do.

Another salient point is that parents can benefit a great deal from their own therapy, whether individual, group, couples or family therapy. All of these types of therapy have been benefits and it's up to the skilled Therapist to make that determination. Some men, for example, need a men's group as they had poor relationships with their own fathers and have few skills in parenting their children, especially boys. Some women were abused sexually and may need special attention from a female Therapist, either individually or also in a group setting. Then benefits of family therapy are substantial when it comes to helping a divorcing family address issues of grief, sadness, anger,etc. Several sessions can have a ripple effect that last months or years afterwards if the Family Therapist is able to guide the family through choppy waters to dry land, so to speak. Helping all concerned to assuage their consciences and accept that for whatever reason not all marriages are meant to last and that the family members are good people and that life goes on;that their is life after divorce can benefit all. Again, the children, who are especailly vulnerable, need to get the message loud and clear that they did not cause their parents to separate or divorce and that they are lovable beings in spite of the irreconciliable differences of their parents.

Finally, the good news is that children can survive and thrive if there are loving adults and role models in their lives post-divorce families. If their parents are mature enough to nurture them and love them in spite of divorce, their children will do well. If the children are fortunate enough to see their parents go on to chose other partners and have loving relationships with them with minimum strife and conflict, then this pattern will be a helpful model in how to select a mate someday for themselves. In closing then, Family Attorneys can be very beneficial in guiding their clients in seeking and obtaining the help they need; they can make all the difference in the world facilitating health and wholeness post-divorce.

©2009, Michael Shaffran

*    *    *

Mike Shaffran is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Psychotherapist with over 30 years experience in the mental health profession. He's worked most of his time in outpatient Psychiatric clinics where he has provided individual, couples/marital, family and group therapy. He is trained in multiple therapies, including: Psycho-dynamic, Gestalt,Structural-Strategic Family, Solution focused, Brief Therapy, and other methods. He is trained in EMDR ( a type of therapy for PTSD), hypnosis, meditation and guided imagery also. Mike is committed to ongoing seminars, workshops and trainings to keep current with the latest therapy to provide the best services possible to his clients. www.sanluisobispotherapy.com or E-Mail

Contact Us | Disclaimer | Privacy Statement
Menstuff® Directory
Menstuff® is a registered trademark of Gordon Clay
©1996-2019, Gordon Clay