Divorce can end some unhappy, unhealthy unions. But if you are a parent going through it, you probably wonder how your children are affected — and how you can help them adjust.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Pediatrician Skyler Kalady, MD, says that divorce and separation can impact children of all ages. “When parents are going through difficult times, children perceive that, regardless of their age. So while kids may express their stresses in different ways at different ages, it’s important for parents to be as open and honest as possible, even with difficult situations.”
She offers the following tips to parents going through a separation or divorce:
1. Communicate honestly
It’s important to keep an open line of communication with your child while keeping the conversation age-appropriate. School-aged children might ask questions about when the other parent is coming back, which Dr. Kalady says is appropriate for their age.
2. Keep routines intact
Consistency and routines are very comforting to children. In the midst of a lot of change, do your best to keep certain things the same, such as schools, activities and time with friends, Dr. Kalady says.
3. Remember, each child is different
When children deal with stresses, Dr. Kalady says they often internalize their concerns, and they can display them in many ways. This can vary among children in the same family. Also, just because a child did not have any issues at the time of the separation, it doesn’t mean that it won’t impact them later down the road.
4. Watch for subtle signs
Recognizing when a child is acting out is easy, but sometimes there are less obvious ways that a child displays emotions.
“The signs can be a lot more subtle, such as not doing as well in school, withdrawing from activities or friends, or just being disinterested. Those things can indicate a depressed mood, anxiety or other concerns that we want to identify early,” Dr. Kalady says.
Your pediatrician can help
Families should not be afraid to talk about divorce openly with their child’s pediatrician, Dr. Kalady says.
“Your child’s pediatrician can guide you in ways that help reduce the potential negative effects of divorce. They also may refer you to professionals with expertise in the social, emotional, and legal aspects of the separation.”