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How Divorce Affects Children Of Different Ages

Dr. Gail Gross, in an article for Huffington Post, recently shed light on the impact of divorce on different-aged children from toddlers to 12. According to Gross, the impacts can be very negative, but manifest themselves in different ways.

For toddlers (ages 1-3), they can be “more vulnerable to emotional problems later in life,” mostly because they “personalize their world; as a result, they may feel that their parents’ divorce is their fault,” Gross writes. This is an impact inwardly. But as the child gets older and experiences divorce later in life (ages 6-12), the impact tends to manifest in outward ways.

“For school age children … parental divorce can negatively impact education … In this age group, children are still very egocentric and can feel responsible for not only their parents’ separation, but for the possibility of a reconciliation. Children ages six through 12 grieve the loss of their parents’ marriage. It is almost inconceivable … that their parents, that belong to them, are no longer living together, and that in fact, one parent is living apart.”

The feeling of being completely helpless to the outcome of a divorce can lead to the child displaying “regressive or aggressive behavior.”

“Withdrawal, aggression, needy, and disobedient behavior can all be seen in the classroom. Daydreaming and not doing schoolwork are behaviors seen by the teacher by children of divorce. Also children ages 6-12 are old enough to understand that their parents have detached from one another. It is here that children criticize one parent or the other and might show their anger by deliberately taking sides.”

So yes, things get a LOT more complicated when the child is in the six to 12 range, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that your divorce, if done early enough in the child’s life, will be less of an impact. Children in the toddler stages see things. They see other kids with moms and dads, and they wonder why theirs can’t get along.

The best way through either situation is to be the best parents that you can be for your kids, and that’s not something easy to do alone. Co-parents may not work as husband and wife, but they can be an incredible source of stability for children during a difficult time in their lives. If you are on the verge of divorce, make your children the biggest priority that you have. It will help neutralize the negative impacts.

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