7 things your child feels when your marriage falls apart
Posted June 26
It’s not easy on anyone in the family when your marriage falls apart, but it’s especially hard on your kids. They can have feelings of confusion, anger and even guilt. In the midst of all the heartache, your child’s feelings can easily go unnoticed.
While every child handles divorce differently, here’s a general idea of what your child might be feeling when your marriage falls apart:
1. They feel stress
Unless your marriage is absolutely miserable for you and your children, they probably don’t want mom and dad to divorce. They love you both more than anything, and the idea of "losing" a parent can cause a lot a stress.
If you’re graceful about the way you handle the process, your children will handle their emotions better. According to Robert E. Emery, PhD, “Parents who do a good job managing the stresses of divorce for children often are surprised by how quickly their kids make the adjustment.”
Talk to a therapist about how to handle your own stress and your child's stress so you both can live through this process on the happier and healthier side of things.
2. They can develop behavioral or psychological problems
Not all children develop these problems, but it’s possible for children to act out and have anger or disobedience problems during situations like divorce. Having talks about what's going on (in an age appropriate way) and assuring your child that mom and dad both love her can help manage her need to act out.
3. They experience pain and worry
It’s natural for kids to be anxious and hurt when their parents are in the process of separating. A study of 99 college students done by Robert E. Emery, PhD showed that the majority of students had painful memories about their parents’ divorce.
He goes on to explain, “Even though many of these young people expressed longing about their parents’ divorce, these were resilient, well-functioning college students.” He advises parents to avoid trying to take away all their pain, because your children will need some level of grief during the process.
4. They can feel guilty
According to Divorce Magazine, it’s very common for young children to feel guilty — like they were the reason their parents' marriage didn’t work out.
They also worry about a lot of things that young kids shouldn’t have to worry about, like if their parents will stop loving them after they split. Reassure your kids that you love them, care about them amidst this difficult process and remind your child that you’re not going anywhere.
5. They blame others
Kids sometimes don’t know how to process what’s going on which can be very traumatic. Some will take sides and blame one parent for what happened. “They also feel a deep yearning for the absent parent … They will express their anger toward the custodial parent, and they may blame him/her for the absence of the other parent” Divorce Magazine explains.
The most important thing you can do for your child is to make sure they know both parents love them no matter what.
6. They hope you’ll get back together
Even if you know your marriage is unhealthy and beyond repair, your kids may hold on to that glimmer of hope that you’ll get back together.
Make sure your child knows the separation isn’t their fault and that they understand the basics of why their parents' marriage didn’t work out. This way, they’ll have a better grasp on what happened and know you probably won’t be getting back together.
7. They’ll love you no matter what
Your kids love you and hate seeing you hurt so much. As a parent, the most crucial thing you can do throughout this whole process is to make sure your kids have no doubts that you love them, too.
Going through something like divorce is never easy, especially when you have kids. Again, not all children will follow this pattern of emotions, so make sure you understand their individual thoughts and unique feelings to know best how to help them.