Divorce Blog

Effects of Divorce on School Aged Children

By Karen Stewart

Children Play at HomeThe effects of divorce are wide-reaching and impact far more than just the couple facing it. More often than not, there are children that have to face the effects of divorce as well. And the impact on them can be much stronger than the impact on the couple involved.

Picture this scenario: a father and his 6-year old son have a pre-arranged spot outside of the elementary school where they have lunch. The boy waits with beaming anticipation for his father to arrive. But that time comes and goes, leaving him disappointed and absent-minded.

These are the types of scenarios that happen regularly among divorced couples with children. Far too often, there are scenarios like these:

The effects of divorce on children and their parental relationships

  • children arriving late to school because of a trip to the store to buy cigarettes for a parent;
  • children being dropped off without proper clothing or lunch. This is because it was the day of parental exchange and clothing was not part of the exchange;
  • children receiving awards without anyone attending their ceremonies because the parents could not agree who would attend;
  • children arriving at school too sick to sit in class and spending the day in the office infirmary, and so the list goes on.

Most of these situations have simple explanations. But some of them could be a result of a family division or distress among the parents. The effect here is definitely the same for the children: a struggle to master their fears which are undermined by feelings of loneliness, helplessness, rejection, and loss.

Ages and Stages

Generally speaking, 6-8 year-olds may experience fear that increases to panic as well as disorganized behavior. It could also stretch to worries about not having enough food or toys. Children need to be continuously reassured that they are okay and that their lives are okay.

Though children at this stage are able to tolerate more flexibility with plans, they still need predictability and consistency. The effects of divorce can generally disrupt these and leave children feeling disappointed and minimalized.

When parents separate there is confusion and disruption of the child’s individual sense of identity, as identity is still closely tied to the family structure. The youngest in this age group may assume personal responsibility for causing the separation. Fantasies of reconciliation are strongly present.

Cooperative Parenting

Happy Boy at SchoolThis means keeping each other informed about any pending events that could affect the child. It things don’t work out smoothly, parents can request that the school keep both parents apprised of any activities and schedules or any difficulties their child might be experiencing.

This sharing of information needs to go both ways, not funneling directly from one parent. A good parenting plan enables both parents to attend activities like school events and extra-curricular activities. The presence of the parents enhances the child’s overall experience.

A good choice is to have the two parents’ homes within the same school district so the children’s friends can remain close.  It is important for both parents equally to accommodate the child’s need to be with school friends on weekends and school holidays. It is a good idea to have their friends invited to both homes.

The effects of divorce can be damaging but there are steps to be taken to mitigate that impact. Work on proper communication and an attention to the children and things can work out.