The Effects of Divorce On Children

Comfort and Security

Children of divorce are up against some serious odds. Children whose parents have divorced are more likely to be injured, suffer illness, misbehave, have trouble in school, and made seriously poor choices such as drug and alcohol abuse at an early age. While this news may be devastating to the single parents who are working so hard to keep the family unit functioning, the good news is that children of divorce aren’t required to suffer this. In fact, all of it is preventable – provided you are ready to work at the situation.

Poor Health

Children of single parents are more likely to get sick or seriously ill than children of two family homes. The explanation is simple enough. When there are two parents keeping tabs on a child, they are twice as likely to catch a stuffy nose or ruddy complexion as a hard-working single parent.

The single parent has only one set of eyes, after all. If those eyes aren’t seeing the state of your child every day and night, it’s very possible you might overlook something for a day or two giving an infection or cold time to grow into something more serious. To solution would be to take time every morning and evening to truly watch your children and monitor their wellbeing.

Injuries

Children of single parents are more likely to engage in risk taking behavior and get serious injured. Broken bones, sprains and serious knocks are common with all children, but especially so with children of divorce. The rationale behind this, however, is two fold.

One reason children act out in this sort of behavior is because they are not as supervised as they need to be. Adolescents especially will push the limits if there is nobody there to stop them. If you’re working when your children come home from school, you can’t effectively monitor their behavior and prevent accidents and foolish injuries.

The other reason children engage in risky behavior is the behavior itself is a call for attention. Too often divorce causes us to turn inside in order to process the emotions and survive the turmoil. Children are experiencing just as much turmoil inside, but are not as mature and therefore can’t process it the way an adult can. Instead of crying and talking it out, you might see your child playing chicken on his bike with moving cars or jumping off roofs.

The solution is just as two-fold as the problem. Te first solution is to find your child a constructive way to spend his time when you’re not around. Send him to an after school sports program at the community center or see if the school offers an after school study hall. Ask a neighbor to watch your child for an hour or two until you get home, or send him home with a friend whose parent is waiting at home. So long as there is an adult present, most risky behavior is eliminated.

The other step you must take is to find your child a means to express himself. Some children do well working with a counselor or therapist. Others can express themselves through art or music. Still others can use physical activity, such as boxing, to work through their emotions and issues. While talking to you might help some, children need their own space to process emotions. After all, it’s very likely there is some anger directed at you and your former spouse that must be handled your presence won’t help with that.

Misbehavior

When a child begins to misbehave at home or at school, it is often for one of two reasons. If he is desperate for attention and needs help with his emotions, he might act out as a call for help. Again, children can’t just talk about how they are feeling, so they will act out their anger and frustration similar to the way toddlers throw tantrums.

The other reason might be that the child simple enjoys getting away with it. Most parents feel intensely guilty over the breakup of a marriage and how it affects the children. This guilt leads them to overcompensate by allowing their child to stretch or completely eliminate limits. If a child can get away with something, he probably will keep it up simply because he can.

To resolve these issues, again, find help for your child to allow him to communicate and process emotions in a healthier way. The school counselor might be an excellent place to start if you’re seeking help with the situation. The other piece of this particular puzzle is to institute the same limits you had before the divorce. Keep your child’s routine in line and give him more structure in his daily life than every before. Children need limits to feel safe and loved, so give him firm boundaries and then maintain them consistently.

Academic Troubles

There are two strands of trouble in academics with children affected by a divorce. The first group of children were once good students, but have slipped academically with the stress of the divorce. This is very normal and your child is just having a hard time concentrating on the tasks at hand when his world is changing so dramatically. Nip this problem in the bud by being around more often at homework time. This ensures it is getting done and follow up with teachers to be sure work is turned in.

Although it is your business, you should also share the news of the divorce with the school. Educators are used to working with children under stress, but they might not recognize the symptoms of a major life change if you don’t give them a head’s up. Again, firm limits at home and school with as few breaks in the routine as possible will help to keep this problem in check.

Another, issue many children of divorce face is long-term academic issues. If you are parenting your child without help as well as working to support the family, you simply don’t have as much time to work with your child on reading fundamentals, vocabulary and math skills.

These skills are critical to building a solid foundation for educational success, but if a parent is working up until a child’s bedtime, the clock is simply working against you.

Studies have said that the quality of the time spent with children is more important than the quantity. To have the maximum positive effect on your children, you should devote yourself to them on the weekends and the scare evening hours. Take care of duties and household chores while they are napping or after bedtime, and while they are awake, engage your child and work many of the educational fundamentals into play.

Sing the alphabet and point out letters on billboards. Play counting games and kill time by letting your child count the number of items in the cart of the number of cars at the light. Repetition is important, so reinforce the lessons daily, or at least a few times a week.

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