How Change Affects Children During Divorce

Whatever you do to minimize the impact of divorce on children, one effect is unavoidable:change. A child’s sense of safety and security is developed through consistency – a life that is much the same from day-to-day. Consequently, change is unsettling at best, and deeply disturbing at worst.

Despite our best efforts, divorce brings many changes into children’s lives, from new routines to the biggest change of all – the fact that one parent is no longer at home. As adults, it is difficult to appreciate the extent to which the “disappearance” of a parent from day-to-life affects children.

For us, there was a time when we did not know our ex-spouse. For children, this isn’t so. Both parents have always been there, in the same way that the sky has always been blue. That’s “how life is”. But all of a sudden, thanks to divorce, it isn’t.

Because children have only known one way of life it is difficult for them to imagine another. And as parents know very well, faced with the unknown a child’s mind will fill up with all sorts of dark and frightening thoughts. These include worrying that the absent parent has gone forever and feeling that if that can happen, anything can happen. The future is a frightening blank.

During a divorce it is essential that parents replace a child’s imaginary fears with concrete realities, and show them that change has limits. The best way to do this is to emphasize, when talking to children about divorce, all the things that will stay the same, and by encouraging children to express their fears.

Parents are often surprised by the kind of change-related fears children have – and how easy they are to lay to rest. For instance, as well as needing to know that the other parent is still very much in their lives and always will be, a child may be deeply reassured to know that their pet rabbit is not going out of their lives either!

Luckily the subject of change is easier to approach than the subject of divorce, and deserves its own session. With time, children will understand that life will indeed be different as a result of divorce but it will still contain all the things – and people – that are important to them.

Copyright 2007 Molly Laws

Posted in: Effects of Divorce on Children

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