Mediate.com

Products and Services

JOIN  |    BE FEATURED     |    GET WEBSITE    |   ADVERTISE    |  ONLINE COURSES    |    DVD COURSES   
Resources > Children's Emotional Responses

Children's Emotional Reactions to Divorce* 

Children's responses to their parents' divorce vary in degree dependent on the quality of their relationship with each of their parents before the separation, the intensity and duration of the parental conflict, and the parents' ability to focus on the needs of children in their divorce. Mediators and parents are referred to Wallerstein & Kelly's Surviving the Breakup for additional information.

I. DENIAL

This especially occurs in young children and surfaces as story telling about Mommy and Daddy and future plans together.

II. ABANDONMENT

When parents separate, children worry who will take care of them. They are afraid they are dispensable and will be abandoned by one or both of their parents. This problem is exacerbated by one or both parents taking the children into their confidence.

III. PREOCCUPATION WITH INFORMATION

Children will want details of what is happening and how it affects them. Communication from the parents needs to be unified and age appropriate. Posting a timesharing schedule where the children can see it is often helpful. Explaining the divorce process and clarifying that the parents will be parents together forever will relieve some of the anxiety.

IV. ANGER AND HOSTILITY

Children may express anger and hostility with peers, siblings, or parents. School performance may be decreased. Hostility of children toward parents is often directed at the parent perceived to be at fault. Hostility turned inward is depression in children.

V. DEPRESSION

Lethargy, sleep and eating disturbances, acting out, social withdrawal, physical injury (more common in adolescents).

VI. IMMATURITY/HYPERMATURITY

Children may regress to an earlier developmental stage when they felt assured of both parents' love. Children may also become "parentified" by what they perceive to be the emotional and physical needs of their parents ("Someone needs to be in charge here"). Children can become angry with their parents for robbing them of some of the joys and experiences of their childhood.

VII. PREOCCUPATION WITH RECONCILIATION

The more conflict there is between the parents, the longer children hold onto the notion of their parents' reconciliation. Children will often act out in ways which force their parents to interact (negatively or positively).

VIII. BLAME AND GUILT

Children often feel responsible for their parents' divorce; somehow their behavior contributed to it. They may try to bargain their parents back together by promises of good behavior.

IX. ACTING OUT

Children will act out their own and their parents' anger. In an attempt to survive in a hostile environment, children will often take the side of the parent they are presently with. This may manifest in refusals to talk to the other parent on the phone or reluctance to share time with the other parent. Adolescents particularly, will act out in ways similar to how the parents are acting out.

*Materials developed by Kathleen O'Connell Corcoran, MS, NCC. Adapted from the work of Marilyn McKnight and Steve Erickson, mediators and trainers from Edina, MN.



Copyright 1996-2019 © Resourceful Internet Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved.