Divorce is rough on all of the parties involved, but its effects can be especially harsh on the children. Kids of all ages grieve the loss of an intact family, but sometimes the children lose far more than that.
The bigger the changes, the greater the loss
Kids often sense that their parents are splitting up long before the divorce petition is filed. Their intuitive natures make them akin to tiny sponges, soaking up information and mirroring emotions from their parents.
In some ways, confirmation of kids’ worst fears can be a relief, as parents can assure their offspring that — no matter what — both Mommy and Daddy will retain vital roles in their children’s lives.
But divorce often forces other unwelcome changes to occur, like having to sell the family home.
When a house is more than a house
The marital home is more than just a piece of valuable real estate. It’s the repository of precious family memories. There’s the room where the babies took their first steps. The home is full of nooks and crannies perfect for rainy-day games of hide-and-seek, and later the hideaway for tender first kisses exchanged away from parents’ prying eyes.
For many adults, their childhood homes are the places in their hearts and minds that will always represent the primordial home and hearth. When the financial fallout of divorce makes moving inevitable, children will grieve the loss of the house just as if it were an old friend.
Changing schools and cliques can be traumatic
During the middle school tween years, there is probably nothing more socially devastating than being the new kid in town. As if adolescence on its own wasn’t awkward enough, navigating the shoals of social hierarchies in a school full of unfamiliar faces can tank even the sunniest-natured child’s self-esteem.
Parents should remain responsive to their children’s distress. But often Mom and Dad are hopelessly mired in their own unhealthy emotions. They are struggling mightily to put on a good front to the world and have few coping skills to offer to the kids.
Anger at their parents’ perceived failures to keep the family unit intact can bubble over into fits of rage and discipline problems outside of the home. Before your life becomes a war zone with the kids, ask your family law attorney for some recommendations for children and family counselors who could provide short-term guidance and counseling on an as-needed basis.
Acceptance comes with time
Parents should take heart to learn that both they and their children will eventually come to accept the new normal that is life post-divorce. Working closely with your divorce attorney can hasten the process for all.