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Divorce And The Effects On Children

Divorce is usually ranked as the second most stressful life event, right behind the death of a spouse. For children, it has the potential to be a crisis that can turn their lives upside down. Fifty years ago, it was thought that virtually all children were negatively affected by divorce, possibly for the rest of their lives. Now, however, research has shown that children can not only survive the crisis of divorce, but can emerge stronger and happier.

Researchers have found that the first three years after the divorce is the most critical time period that can affect children's development. 3 out of 4 children weather their parent's divorce and may emerge more resilient, but there is still the 1 in 4 that may struggle or stumble developmentally. It is crucial that your child receives emotional support and guidance during this time to be part of the 75% that emerges more resilient. Further, during these three crucial first years, children of different ages will react differently and need different types of support.

There are critical development tasks for children of different ages. If parents know what to look for during these first three critical years after divorce, they can watch, assess, and intervene if necessary to help their children weather the divorce and thrive afterwards.

In early childhood (from birth to age 5), the most critical development tasks are secure attachments and willingness to explore the world around them. Divorce parents need to ensure their young children are able to form, as well as maintain strong attachments. These foundations are critical for exploration and learning, and if divorce stands in the way of forming these attachments, can have long-lasting effects.

In later childhood, socialization and literacy are among the critical development tasks. Both school and family play major roles in these development tasks, and children who feel the effects of a stressful divorce can have trouble making friends, and even performing basic skills such as reading. Parents should watch for their child's ability to form friendships and be ready to intervene if the child exhibits difficulty completing schoolwork. Research shows that children who fall behind in these areas have a very difficult time catching up to their peers, and can experience issues like low self-esteem.

Lastly, in the adolescent years, the most critical development task is the emergence of a personal identity, which is formed from the "tween" years through the teen years. Identity is established through relationships; relationships with peers, parents, teachers, and other influential adults. The unfortunate part is that once identity is established, it can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy, which means that if a healthy identity does not emerge, it can have disastrous, long-term effects on a teenager's life. So it is critically important during the first 3 years after divorce, that parents do not allow the divorce to cut off their teen's relationships, in order for their teen to develop a healthy identity.

This is by no means a complete list of things to watch for during the critical first three years after your divorce, but we hope it gives you a good basis to learn from and some key points to watch for to ensure your child's healthy development. The key point is that divorce does not have to negatively affect your child, but it will take work on both parent's part to ensure their child survives and thrives through the divorce process.

(Source: Does Divorce Inevitably Damage Children? Huffington Post)

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