When the word divorce is the topic of discussion, the word itself is frightening. However, when it's the best option available, the children involved are effected more than one may think. Symptoms begin to show in a child's behavior. Being knowledgeable about what to expect is the best way to help ease this painful experience.
It's important for children to receive emotional support from the parent they see the most. Second is how involved noncustodial parents are with their children, both before and after divorce. As a noncustodial parent, making every effort to stay positively involved in a child's life is important and well worth the trouble. Third, the amount of conflict between parents determines the child's reactions to a divorce.
Furthermore, the gender of the child plays a role as boys’ and girls’ response to the situation can vary. Temke writes that children raised by parents of the same sex tend to have greater success adjusting to the divorce than those who are raised by a parent of the opposite sex. Tamke concedes, however, that the child’s relationship with the primary parent is of more importance than the possibility of being raised by a parent of the opposite sex.
Other behaviors may include problems in school, nervous habits, repetitive physical behaviors, and regressive behaviors such as bed-wetting, fears, and use of comfort items. Children may become clingy and whiny and they may need greater understanding of their moods and behavior. They have a greater need to be nurtured.
Instead of experiencing anger and hatred toward the parent for deserting him or her, the child could become depressed because he or she may feel unwanted. The result of depression would be a lack of production in school, or the lashing out at other students or even teachers, even the lack of nutrition. The lashing out and the refusal to eat could also continue in the home directed at brothers or sisters, or even the chosen parent or babysitter. The lashing out would only include in retaliation by screaming, but it could also lead to violence.
There are those children who are not very perceptive of the world around them, so when the separation of the parents comes, anger and hatred fills the heart of the child, usually directing it towards the parent that left, which is usually the father. Fear also enters the heart of a child after feeling deserted by one parent the child fears that the other might do the same (Kaslow, 1987). The child feels this way only because he or she doesn’t understand why this is happening so the child places the blame on the parent that left. These are only ways that it affects a child mentally, but there are also the effects that a child experiences physically.
Socialization of children is also vital during formative school years. Children who are affected so negatively during this time by parental conflict will not only evidence complications in school performance and behavior, but may also become more socially withdrawn. This may lead to poor social skills and shyness. The overall effect may be to “force” children into complications that may permanently damage their overall views of others impacting trust and formulation of healthy relationships.
The emotional stress that parents feel following divorce may temporarily reduce the amount of attention they are able to give their children. As a result, some children turn to one another for nurturance and support. Because
siblings experience many of the same emotions, they are able to understand each other's feelings and concerns and to reassure each other. Other children, however, may engage in more conflict with their siblings. These children may feel confused and angry about the changes that are occurring in their family and they take these negative
feelings out on their siblings. Some siblings also engage in more conflict because they are competing for their parents' attention.
One of the biggest problems that divorce imposes on children is the decision of whom to live with. Usually parents divorce when children are small and the children have no say in where they go. Since the child cannot choose, this leads to custody battles that end in split custody or joint custody. Whatever the choice may be between the two types of custody, either will prove detrimental to the child.
By any definition, divorce is a horrible word. There is no way to make the word sound better or make its effects less painful. According to the Webster’s Dictionary, divorce is "the legal dissolution of marriage or the termination of an existing relationship or union" (Webster’s 370). This definition makes the word seem formal and does not accurately display the feeling that sweeps over a person when the word is mentioned. A better definition of the depth of the word comes from Whitney, holding a child’s point of view, "Divorce is like a thousand knives being thrown at one’s heart or a slow, painful ride through Horror Mountain" (Through 1). Her definition more accurately describes the feelings and emotions that go along with the mention of divorce. Most children would agree with Whitney’s summary of divorce. To them, divorce is much more than a legal dissolution; it is their whole world being torn apart and thrown on the ground in pieces.
Divorce affects children differently, depending on their gender, age, temperament and stage of development. Their world, their security and their stability seems to fall apart when their parents divorce.