The Worst Age For Divorce For Children: A New Guide (2020)

December 10, 2019

If you are about to get a divorce, are you worried about how it will affect your children? You might be wondering what age is the worst for your kids to experience a divorce. Is it when they are teenagers? Preschoolers? Or is any age bad for kids to go through a divorce? 

If your mind is being plagued with these thoughts, this article is for you. We will discuss the worst age for divorce for kids and what recent studies have shown.

So, what is the worst age for divorce for children?

There are many studies that show the effects of divorce on children. Psychologists differ in their views as to what is the worst age for divorce for children. For example, some psychologists believe that the worst age for divorce is between the ages of 2 and 4, because that is the age when parents play a primary role in a child’s life. At this age, a child’s environment shapes their brain and emotions. What they observe and learn during this age could affect them for the rest of their lives. Children at this age can sense their parent’s unhappiness. Kids at this age are rather selfish, so they may blame themselves if they see mommy and daddy fighting. They do not have the ability to understand what is really going on.

Children between the ages of 2 and 4 could become more clingy, tearful, and start throwing more tantrums. They might begin to regress with potty training or if they were sleeping through the night, they could begin to wake up during the night. Divorce can leave children feeling overwhelmed and insecure. This is especially true when the parents become separated and little ones have to be carted back and forth between their parents. They might not understand why mom and dad do not live together anymore. Toddlers sense change and they might feel insecure as to who will take care of them. They might feel abandoned by the parent that left home. These feelings of abandonment could affect children for the rest of their lives as feelings of insecurity become ingrained into their subconscious. The risk of this happening is even greater if a parent leaves completely.

Another factor to consider is whether or not the child comes from an abusive household. If there is abuse, most children, at any age, feel relief about getting out of the abusive home.

Other psychologists believe that the worst age for divorce is between the ages of 10 and 11, because children at this age understand everything that is going on in the household. Children understand the role of their parent’s relationship and divorce is very stressful at this age for children. When children see their parents fighting, bad-mouthing one another, and resenting one another, it causes emotional wounds. The worst thing parents can do at this age is to use their kids as bargaining chips or use them to communicate feelings with one another. This places children in the middle of their parent’s fights, which can cause huge emotional trauma that could last for many years to come. At this age, children also worry about how their friends will view their parent’s divorce. They could feel embarrassed or feel like they might need to pick a side. As a preteen, they are still very dependent on their parents and could be struggling with their own emotions, because they are trying to become independent. As a parent, expect your child to act out. They will feel angry, hurt, abandoned, and depressed. Parents will need to work together to help their children feel love and reassurance. 

According to Complete Case, you can follow these steps to help your preteen cope with your divorce:

  • Do not bad mouth the other parent in front of your child. Remember that they are half of you and half of your spouse. They love both their parents, so when you bad mouth your spouse, you are hurting your children.

When children see their parents fighting nonstop, this causes major anxiety and stress. You are also setting a bad example for your kids when it comes to their future relationships. All couples fight at some point or other, but seeing parents constantly arguing can be scary for kids and can also cause depression. If you feel the need to argue with your ex, do it when the kids are not around. You could even send your ex an email. 

  • Be honest with your children.
  • Try to keep routines as stable and normal as possible.

If you can, try to keep your children’s routines the same. Abrupt changes could affect your kids. If possible, keep them in the same schools and close to their friends and family. Trying to maintain some consistency, throughout the chaos, could do wonders for your kids. This will help your children feel secure. Also, allow your children to see your ex. They will benefit from being with each parent, and this will help them to not feel abandoned. Keep routines at home as consistent as possible. Do not become lax about bedtime or about other rules. If you and your spouse can agree on the same set of rules, that would be awesome! Children thrive on consistency. By keeping the rules the same, in both homes, your kids will feel secure.

  • If you notice that your child is struggling, see a therapist.
  • Most importantly, tell your child often that you love them and that the divorce is not their fault.

If you notice that your child is struggling, see if there is anything that you can do to make your child feel better. Their answers might surprise you. If they do not have any suggestions, perhaps you could help them with some ideas. For example, maybe offer a hug, a walk or even a short vacation. Sometimes just a change of scenery can really help children.

One last thought

Divorce is hard on children. It doesn’t matter what age children go through a divorce, it will still affect them. The best thing that you can do for your children is to keep showing them that you love them and that you will always be there for them no matter what.

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Andi Perullo de Ledesma

I am Andi Perullo de Ledesma, a Chinese Medicine Doctor and Travel Photojournalist in Charlotte, NC. I am also wife to Lucas and mother to Joaquín. Follow us as we explore life and the world one beautiful adventure at a time.

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