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What to expect regarding your kids' reactions to your divorce

Like most parents, you likely have days when parenting feels like the most rewarding experience of your life and also times when you just hope you can make it through the day because your kids are causing you so much stress. Something adults don't always consider is that grownups also sometimes do things that cause children stress as well.  

Divorce is one type of situation that can cause disruption and stress in children's lives. If you end your marriage, does it necessarily mean that you are going to ruin your children's lives? No, it does not; however, it likely means that they (and you) will encounter challenges as they come to terms with the situation and take their first steps toward a new lifestyle.  

Prepare to witness a wide range of emotions 

Just as no two adults will react to divorce in quite the same way, neither will any two children. The following list includes emotions and situations that would not be uncommon in your situation, so if you notice one or more of your kids doing any of the following things, it doesn't necessarily mean there is a serious mental health problem, but it might mean your kids need some extra support:  

  • Your children might cry when you tell them you are getting divorced.
  • It's common for a child to get angry at one or both parents when divorce occurs. 
  • Children often regress when their parents file for divorce.
  • School grades might plummet. 
  • Children often internalize the marital problems of their parents. You can help avoid problems in this area by telling your kids often that your divorce is not their fault.
  • Some kids develop insomnia or other sleep-related problems when they worry about the life changes divorce will bring. 
  • Your child may seem aloof or grow distant from you and/or your co-parent. 
  • One child may become aggressive and another might become introverted.  

The thing to remember is that there is no right or wrong way to react to divorce. Emotions are feelings and often vary by day or, in some situations, even by the hour. What is most important is that you tell your children you love them and also that you try to provide resources of support to help them cope.  

Adult problems affect children 

If your kids witness you constantly fighting with your ex, especially if the arguments pertain to them, they may feel stressed and upset a lot of the time. However, if they see their parents working together for the sake of their best interests, they are far more likely to rebound in a productive, healthy manner. If legal issues are impeding your ability to move on, it's a good idea for you to tap into adult resources to help you resolve such problems.

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