When you introduce the idea of an impending divorce to your children, they might react in a number of ways. The short term side effects of divorce on your children can have a huge range— and we do mean it when we say there is no guide that will fit your exact situation. So, here is a basic list of reactions you might expect and find ways to circumvent. No divorce is perfect, and neither is any reaction. So, the best thing you can do is prepare for them!
Short Term Side Effects of Divorce on Children
Lashing out is, more simply put, acting outside of the child’s norm, is a very common response to stress. Especially divorce related stress. This might come in form of screaming, sneaking out, drinking, drugs, coloring on the walls…— this will all depend on the age group that they are in. But most commonly— a child will act out by doing things to intentionally hurt one or both parents (usually whoever they associate the most blame with).
It is not uncommon for a child to want to be alone during a time like this. Think about it—their whole world is shifting before their eyes. Sometimes, a child might just feel like the only person who understands is themselves. Therefore, they isolate. Maybe the aren’t talking to friends, or they aren’t talking to you— or they aren’t talking to anyone. Either way, it is normal but make sure you are engaging with them. In short, try. It won’t be easy, but making a move to open those lines of communication will be super helpful in making sure this short-term set of feelings don’t turn into something larger.
Another common response is to deny that this is even happening. Maybe the child is making moves to try and reconcile the relationship, or play matchmaker with the two of you. Or is hesitant to accepting that change is coming. By playing along, you might be further convincing that child that change might come and they have influence over changing it. It is best to have a conversation with the child, at this point, to make sure that everyone is on the same page about the pending changes. While it won’t be easy, you’re sparing your child the heartache and hope if they sense that they have an effect on your decision.
Lack of Concentration
A lot is going on at home. For a child, this can severely impact their ability to focus in other aspects of life. It can be purposeful or subconscious, but you will often see the signs first in school work or day to day activities. From grades dropping, bad progress reports, a lack of interest in normal extracurriculars. Honestly, it is not an uncommon response to such a big change. While it is not ideal, speaking with their teacher and explaining the situation might help her to apply some leniency to how she handles things. While this would not normally be the appropriate way to go with other instances— this one is quite extenuating.
Last of all, your child might be feeling some degree of guilt over what is happening. Especially when a child is younger, they might associate things they have done with the current situation. If they are feeling this way, often they won’t express it. But, in turn, they might begin to feel remorseful, responsible, and depressed for the way that things are going. This is part of why communication about the ‘why and what’ is so important. For a child to feel as if they are responsible, is a heavy burden to bear. Therefore, they might act out in ways that reflect these feelings.
The key in all of these different short term side effects is communication and expectation
Expect that your child will act out and respond in a number of ways. Communicate that this is not their fault, theirs to handle, or theirs to carry the load for. A child’s mind is complex and constantly changing, and a reaction is only natural. But establishing those feelings, finding ways to comfortably talk about them, and allowing your child to vent— these are all important ways of making sure everyone comes out on the other end of this thing feeling as healthy and happy as possible.