How Divorce Affects Children in Arizona
You may long to read studies announcing that an impending marital split won’t affect the kids. Most divorcing parents would love to find evidence that a divorce will not hurt their kids. But even common sense tells you that isn’t true. Divorce is stressful for everyone involved, including kids from tots to teens. But the way you and your spouse handle your divorce will either make the process less painful for them. Or it will make it harder. It has been our experience that much younger children tolerate divorce between than adolescent children or teenage children. The older the children are when the divorce occurs the more likely they will be affected and potentially act out in negative and destructive ways. This is particularly true if the divorce is the result of an affair by one of the parents. Let’s look at how divorce affects children.
A divorce thrusts major changes into a child’s life. The child neither asked for those changes, wanted those changes, or were prepared for these changes. Children change, yet have no control over the divorce shaking up their family. Kids want things to stay as they are, even if things are not that good. They fear losing contact with a parent. They dread their parents’ anger with each other. They worry about the disruption in their own lives. Then there’s the possibility of a decline in family finances, the risk of losing their home. They also fear a parent may try to make them take sides in the divorce battle.
Divorce anxiety affects children in different ways, depending on their personalities and ages. Across the board, divorce increases the risk that children develop behavioral issues. If a child is already troubled, he is especially prone to have anger issues during a divorce. His disobedience and rule violations may increase, and school performance decrease. Sensitive children can suffer long-term depression and anxiety. Older kids can turn into “little parents” who feel responsible for their sad parents.
However, don’t panic. When parents behave appropriately during and after the divorce, their kids usually do okay. Most children of divorce do not experience extreme behavior problems or emotional issues. Many children from divorced parents are strong and resilient enough to make it through a divorce relatively intact. They develop like ordinary kids whose parents did not divorce, functioning well in and out of school. They can go on to lead happy lives. You and your spouse can limit the negative effect your divorce will have on your kids if you make it a priority. Modeling good parenting behavior in a time of personal crisis isn’t easy, but if you care about your children, it’s worth the effort.
Parents Impact How Divorce Affects Children
As a divorcing parent, you will not be able to protect your kids from the pain and sorrow of divorce. But pain and sadness are natural in this situation when life, as it was, is ending. It is perhaps for the best that you cannot take away your children’s pain or block it or erase it. It may be their first experience of loss, but it surely will not be their last. Children, like adults, must move through the changes life brings and are entitled to grieve their losses. However, make no mistake about it: The choices you make during the divorce will either help your kids to cope or make it harder for them to heal. It may not make sense to stay in an unhappy marriage “for the kids” but their emotional landscape should be on your mind during every single step you take toward ending your marriage.
So, what can you do to lessen the impact of a divorce on your children? You can start by letting your children know the divorce is not their fault. We do not condone telling the children the other parent is at fault and, instead, suggest you simply tell the children the divorce is amicable and the result of differences the parents could not resolve. You should that you want the children to see both parents frequently and that neither of you are going to disappear from their lives.
Next, avoid all verbal and non-verbal conflict with the other parent. Obvious signs of verbal conflict include arguing, yelling, or other hostile comments in front of the children. The children did not create your conflict, so show appropriate boundaries with your children and their need for peace and stability during your divorce. Non-verbal conflict includes that way you act towards the other parent at parenting time exchanges. Simply not saying anything to the other parent is a passively and aggressively sending non-verbal cues to the children that the other parent is so bad he or she cannot even converse with them.
Lastly, don’t hire an attorney who, despite all your efforts with the children, creates a divorce war between you and your spouse. It is hard enough to keep yourself together during a divorce, but a nasty divorce attorney can easily turn an amicable divorce into a divorce war. So, tell your attorney to exhibit some professional decorum when representing your interests in a divorce.
Chris Hildebrand wrote this article to ensure everyone has access to information about family law in Arizona. Chris is a divorce and family law attorney at Hildebrand Law, PC. He has over 24 years of Arizona family law experience and has received multiple awards, including US News and World Report “Top Arizona Divorce Attorneys”, Phoenix Magazine “Top Divorce Law Firms”, and Arizona Foothills Magazine “Best of the Valley” award. He believes the policies and procedures he uses to get his clients through a divorce should all be guided by the principles of honesty, integrity, and, quite frankly, actually caring about what his clients are going through in a divorce or family law case. In short, his practice is defined by the success of his clients. He also manages all of the other attorneys at his firm to make sure the outcomes in their clients’ cases are successful as well.
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