Understanding The Emotional Impact Of Divorce On A Child’s Different Developmental Stages

Impact of Divorce on a Child
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

Divorce has far-reaching effects on a child’s emotional and psychological states. These can be measured and identified as short-term and long-term effects. Children of separated or divorced families tend to exhibit self-accusation, codependency, abusive behaviour, and instant or even constant rage. It often manifests as depression, self-harm or suicidal tendency and addiction.

Perception is the vital key to our emotional and mental understanding. The effects of one’s experiences are dependent on the process and their understanding of it. By understanding the impact of separation and divorce within specific periods of a child’s life, you can better help them transition, grow, develop and heal from this difficult and complicated process.


Short-term Effects


This process happens in the first couple of years after the divorce. These negative factors may be experienced at various levels of intensity and include:

  • Conflicts within the family
  • Parental lack of communication
  • Financial stresses and emotional stresses

These factors make it difficult for the child to adapt to the present situations in their life. They’ll enter a short period of mourning as they resist the drastic changes leaving them shocked, traumatised, and fearful.  

Besides their inner conflicts, a parent’s divorce causes feelings of anger, sadness, guilt, loneliness, sorrow, fear, and a sense of being rejected and unloved. This may manifest itself physically as stomach aches, breathing issues, chest pain, and headaches. 

If left unaddressed, some feelings can develop into disorders like oversleeping and overeating, particularly within the first year of divorce. These disorders are regarded as psychosomatic.


Long-term Effects


These unfold following the first two years after the divorce and possibly into adulthood. Children often struggle to adapt to changes within the family and home environment, continuous separation, and possible increased conflict between parents. 

This reveals emotional, mental and behavioural problems, which may relate to a lot of difficulty with social adjustment dependent on the intensity of circumstances. 

Long-term effects of divorce, when left unresolved, can manifest themselves as interpersonal conflict, inconsistent discipline, lower academic achievement, economic hardship, low self-esteem and trouble maintaining healthy relationships.


During Infancy: Age 0 – 18 Months


Babies are able to sense stress in the house (and between parents) throughout infancy, but they don’t grasp why it’s happening. If the tension continues, they express irritation and get clingy and easily irritated, particularly when they meet new people. Infants can start to regress or exhibit signs of developmental delay.


Their Safe Space


Infants require stability and routine, and they find comfort in familiarity. Maintaining regular daily routines is beneficial, focusing on physical and verbal closeness. Remember that contact with both parents is essential for healthy development. Communication and conversation between both parents regarding what is best for the baby are crucial.

Keep arguments, outbursts and unsavoury behaviour away from the infant, and always remain calm and comforting when changing hands between parents to avoid developmental problems later in life. Remember those important milestones, like a baby’s first words or first steps, should be shared despite your differences.


During The Curious Years: Age 3 – 5


Throughout the toddler years, a child’s primary bond is with their parents. Therefore any substantial upheaval in their home life might be difficult for them to accept and grasp. Furthermore, children of this age are self-centred and may believe they are to blame for their parents’ divorce. You’ll often find that they may cry, throw tantrums, act clingy and demand more attention than normal. Some toddlers regress and resume thumb sucking, reject potty training, become fearful of being abandoned, or have difficulty falling asleep or sleeping alone at night.


Their Safe Space


Children at this age lack an accurate concept of time ‒ a week’s separation may feel like an eternity. This leads to separation anxiety, so regular contact between both parents is essential. To meet their needs, build a deep trust between your child; the trust of love between both parents is solid. Keep consistency in routines between both houses, and provide a comforting toy or blanket they can take to both houses. Set healthy boundaries and give lots of hugs, comfort and affection.


During The Primary School Years: Age 6 – 12


At this age, a child’s logic is not completely developed. Although they are more understanding of the concept of divorce, the feelings of understanding will subside into the intense feelings of loss accompanied by other negative emotions. This paves the way for them to feel and express behaviours of holding grudges and animosity towards their parents and other adults in their lives. They tend to create issues and problems at school out of frustration, causing their popularity and success to decline.


Their Safe Space


Children may need a professional support system to help them cope with their negative emotions and hurtful perceptions. They need assistance coming to terms with reality. And these adverse effects of divorce need to be addressed and resolved, equipping the child with coping mechanisms and tools for detecting triggers and any hidden influences. Through professional guidance, we determine the main emotional impacts experienced by each family member.


Reach Out For Professional Help


Divorce brings changes that alter relationships within the family and social circles and affect self-esteem, interactions and perceptions. Parents and children will benefit significantly from professional intervention and advice.

My name is Dr John Souglides, a professional hypnotherapist. Using the ancient art of hypnotherapy, we can help your child comprehend the circumstances of the new living arrangements. I believe that with every obstacle, an opportunity is revealed. For every negative, there is an equal positive.


Overcoming Difficulties Together


Together, we can uncover the most painful and debilitating issues at their root, deep within the subconscious, and then begin restoring and maintaining healthy parent-child relationships and connections. Together we will set goals that will aid in academic or work-related performance, as well as develop systems and solutions to restore self-esteem and cope with negative emotions before they start affecting a healthy development.

Book an appointment for individual and joint sessions to help you and your child transition into this new chapter together by forming healthy coping mechanisms and overcoming deep-seated emotional difficulties.