What is the emotional impact of separation and divorce on children?

What is the emotional impact of separation and divorce on children? 

The realisation that their parents are no longer together can feel very much like tectonic plates shifting and can feel devastating. But as with all dramatic change it is how we support ourselves and how we heal that is indicative of how we recover. The more we look after ourselves the better we recover. Children and young people are incredibly adaptable and resilient if given a chance and given sufficient support. With all the emotional losses and endings, just as in experiencing a death, this series of unexpected and unwanted dramatic changes can make us feel like our entire solar system has been thrown into turmoil. Sometimes losing a parent might feel like our sun or moon has disappeared as it’s true to say that parents are the planets that children revolve around.

Whenever there is gravitational discord between two parents, children are the first ones to pick up on these signals, just as tiny bees feel vibration through their finely-tuned antennae, children can feel discombobulated. Their reference points are out of sync. Similarly, when parents separate, it feels like one planet (or both) has been eclipsed for a while but hopefully, not for too long – whilst you work out the practicalities, recover yourselves and begin your own healing process too.

 Our gravitational pull will go awry for while – which is totally natural – until we have mourned, grieved and healed and it can take a while for our (solar) family system to find a new dynamic. Through all of this, you and your children will be feeling incredibly raw – like you have been out in the desert and got severely sunburnt – and yet you have to seem to be functioning normally when all of this has happened. It’s hard to muddle along when you are feeling so sore, very raw and sensitive and many other relationships will be put under strain as a result. When you don’t feel like ‘yourself’ and are trying to grip onto some sense of normality when your usual references are no longer the same.

What are the signs your child is struggling and needing support?

Not able to concentrate at school.

Not wanting to go to school.

Seems absent minded, forgetful.

Not eating, not sleeping properly.

Clinging onto you, possessive of you and not wanting to share you with other siblings.

Fighting with friends, seeming to have strained relationships.

Often ill, complaining of stomach aches and headaches.

Unusual fears or phobias.

More aggressive, fighting with other siblings (more than usual sibling spats).

Very tearful or very sensitive – more than usual.