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Challenges for Children in a Divorce

Researchers argue that divorce rates have declined as more people take longer to get hitched. Marriage was once seen as a starting block for younger generations, but the views are quickly changing. Finding a life partner and getting hitched is now seen as a platform to showcase one's achievements. The LA Times reported an 18% decline in divorce rates between 2008 and 2016, and this trend is common among highly educated and more affluent people.

Be that as it may, there are still many couples going their separate ways after years of marriage, and this decision has long-lasting impacts. Children usually bear the brunt of bitter divorces, and even when the separation is not contested, the loss is unfathomable. San Diego Divorce Attorney works with tons of clients dissolving their marriage, and we have seen the many challenges that children experience during and after divorce.

1. Filling the Gap

Living in a family with one parent is not as easy as the primary parent has too much on their plate. In many cases, spousal and child support is not enough to subsist on, so the parent has to work a full-time job. The other parent may not be so co-operative, and they refuse to honor shared custody and visitation arrangements. The departed parent leaves a significant gap that is often filled by children – especially the older children – who feel the added responsibility to help around the home.

Older siblings make lunches and dinners; they discipline the younger ones; they drop and collect them from childcare centers, and do tons of chores. They fill the gap so the present caregiver can focus on other things like earning a living or going back to school. While life may appear normal, these children quickly become overworked and can barely focus on their development.

They miss downtime with peers, finishing homework, and generally feel pressured to grow up faster than they would have wanted. Some kids go the extra mile and fill the emotional gap left by the separated parent, and this dynamic morphs into unhealthy codependency. We discuss this adverse outcome further below.

Parents who are planning to severe the marital union need to put measures in place so they can safeguard their children's physical and emotional needs. It is unfair to get so lost in grieving that children are left to fend for themselves.

2. Endless Conflict

If a child has to fill the gap left by a caregiver, there is bound to be conflict. They quickly become frustrated while attempting to fill these shoes and more so when the absent parent is not making an effort. He or she may be okay with abandoning their responsibilities, and this triggers conflict. If a parent forgets to attend a meeting at school, the child will blame them for not caring enough. They may remind them how the other parent was more involved with school matters.

Financial hardships only add fuel to the fire as the family struggles to make ends meet with a much-reduced budget. The custodial parent could be the breadwinner or vice versa, and they may be struggling to keep the household going. Children have different needs as they develop, and the unique needs demand more resources that are not forthcoming. The bills keep coming, and conflict with the ex-spouse gets heated.

Late or denied child support can trigger conflict even when the divorce process was not adversarial. The paying spouse may turn to financial abuse to punish their former partner and the kids for not siding with them during custody hearings. They could lose their income due to no fault of their own, or wrongdoing such as a drinking habit that spills over into the workplace. Returning to family court to report denial of child support for whatever reason is time-consuming not to mention expensive.

A home riddled with angry outbursts, parents who barely speak to each other, and other sources of conflict is not a healthy home. Too much friction will affect the child's temperament, and they also start acting out at home and school, and this will cause more trouble. Failing grades, detention, and suspensions from school will not go down well with the parents, and this cycle of conflict continues.

3. Difficulty Trusting People

Children of divorce experience a traumatic episode during their pivotal years where they saw their parents end their relationship, and find new partners. Family dynamics change and children are forced to adjust to the new normal, and they may  internalize stress to put up appearances. One or both parents may start another relationship and even get married, and that too could fall apart.

Witnessing their family being severed and new people coming and going breaks their hearts and they may hesitate to trust people again. They fear getting hurt, and this makes them retreat into their cocoons instead of putting themselves out there and meet prospective partners. It is impossible to establish and nurture a relationship without trust, and this could mean a lifetime of bad relationships at work and in their personal life.

4. Resenting One or Both Parents

Divorce is not an easy concept to grasp, especially for children in their impressionable years. They usually start by blaming themselves for the separation, wondering if they did something to irritate their parents. As the divorce process ensues, they see warring parents exchange insults, slam doors, and other unbecoming actions.

If the kids are older, they will understand why the marriage is breaking and more importantly, which parent is at fault. An unfaithful mother or husband will be blamed for wreaking the family, and even more if they walk away and start another family. Child custody battles make things dire as parents fight over who gets the kids at the expense of children needing access to both parents.

San Diego Divorce Attorney has seen divorces where separating spouses used the kids as pawns to hurt the other person, and children get caught up in the hatred. Messing with visitation schedules to deny the non-custodial parent time with the kids is common, and so is badmouthing ex-partners in front of the kids.

These unsavory tactics are off-putting custody hearings that may take longer than necessary. Meanwhile, the kids resent your actions toward one another, and this seething anger doesn't go away overnight. Children who resent their parents cannot confide in them even when the situation calls for serious talk. The tumultuous teenage years make things harder as they feel emotionally neglected, and you cannot get through to them.

5. Substance Abuse and Addiction

Children who were raised in broken homes are more susceptible to drug and alcohol abuse, and when this problem goes unchecked, it escalates to dependency. These children wrestle with feelings of loneliness, dissatisfaction, emotional emptiness, and so on, and they turn to alcohol to numb their pain.

Finding solace in a bottle of prescription pills, or hard drugs is never the solution, but it fills the void momentarily. The aftermath of a troubled childhood follows them as young adults, leaving them vulnerable to addiction. Attempts to get clean can prove futile despite making several trips to rehabilitation centers. Regrettably, not many alcohol and drug addicts fully recover from this dependency.

As a result, addicts find it hard to maintain relationships with anyone, let alone hold down a job. A failed social life and lack of income only compounds the issues and makes them want to drink some more. Legal troubles are usually not too far behind; the person could be apprehended for disorderly conduct, possession, etc.

6. Co-dependent Relationships

Children who have witnessed frequent quarrels in the household and the pain of divorce often become the emotional caregivers of the remaining parent. Their father may leave and start another family leaving the mother fraught with emotional baggage that cripples their ability to cope and raise their children. If there are no shared custody or visitation arrangements, these children are left without access to the other parent.

They are forced to grow up faster than desired to fill the gaping hole left by one or both parents. Older children are left to run the household as their remaining parent checks out and abandons their responsibility. Codependency becomes the norm, and when these children grow up, they are more inclined to forging relationships with other people who need them.

This dynamic makes them feel alive, so they don't mind pairing up with addicts, people with a lot of emotional problems, and social misfits. Being codependent with another troubled soul undermines their self-identity, and such children never reach their potential. They become underachievers, and the pain of thinking about how their life could have turned out is frustrating.

More so, such children may be drawn into the same cycle again when the needy parent grows older and demands their support. Taking care of a senior parent is hard enough even for children who had healthy childhoods. A co-dependent child will repeat this experience voluntarily or involuntarily, and this relationship may echo the anguish of their youth and losing seasons of life. Plenty of time was lost in their formative years, and sadly, this family crisis continues to rob their time in adulthood.

How Can I Protect Children from Adverse Outcomes in Divorce?

We have discussed extensively the challenges affecting children in a divorce and after that. It is the onus of separating parents to put the needs of children first, so they are not punished for whatever led to this ending. San Diego Divorce Attorney strives to help parents like you complete the divorce process as calmly as possible. We will help you do this without burdening the children with additional baggage that might be too much to bear. Whatever age your children are, you can protect them from the above adverse outcomes by doing the following:

1. Be Transparent

Marriage is not only a couple's matter but the children as well. The kids can tell when something is amiss and denying to acknowledge this only exacerbates the issue. For instance, one parent may not be coming home as usual, and this will raise questions. Has dad rented another house? Is he on a business trip? You could downplay this move to buy time until you master enough courage to break the news, and this is understandable.

Nevertheless, refusing to explain an absent parent, sleeping in different bedrooms, and the silent treatment only makes kids anxious. Transparency will help them know what is going on, rather than speculating, and they will respect you for having this conversation. 

2. Legitimize Their Feelings

Once the children learn of the impending separation and divorce, they will have a myriad of questions starting with what led to the divorce. They may also wonder which parent will be awarded custody, where they will live, and how their lives will change. These are reasonable questions that deserve accurate responses to help your offspring prepare for inevitable circumstances.

Children can act out their frustrations and throw tantrums that can make life at home unbearable. Things are worse off with teenagers as they are in the throes of puberty, and their emotions are unstable. Legitimize their feelings and explain what is happening calmly. Yelling and screaming are counterproductive measures; be mindful of how you speak to them and refrain from shifting the blame on the other spouse. Projecting anger on innocent kids is selfish and will harm them in the coming years.

3. Organized is the New Normal

California requires a divorcing couple to formally separate to allow more time to think about this life-altering decision. For most families, this means one parent moves out of the primary residence and start anew elsewhere. Juggling kids between two homes means keeping two sets of everything, so the child does not lack essential items when spending time with either parent.

The last thing you want is a child asking for their favorite toy only to learn they forgot it in the other home. Not having pajamas at dad's house, missing home-cooked meals, or lack of other essential items will be associated with divorce. The kids are likely to resent the presumably neglectful parent even when they are trying their best. You can avoid this disarray through meticulous planning and collaboration with your ex-spouse.

Train yourself to become highly organized, so nothing falls through the cracks. Having a calendar of important events like swimming classes, football practice, doctor's appointments, helps you not miss anything. The kids need to feel your continued love and support in their activities. What's more, keeping the household running, as usual, eases them into the new family space.

4. Patience and Tolerance

Separation and divorce are hard on every parent, and more so for children as they mostly feel left out of a grown-up decision that will affect their lives. They worry about becoming like their peers who hail from broken homes; they worry about social stigma and many other worries. You are called upon to be patient with kids and keep reassuring them of your unwavering love as they grow older.

It is not atypical for children to vent their frustrations at school and this will get them in trouble, sometimes earning them a suspension. While scolding them may seem like the natural thing to do, be careful not to alienate them and make them feel worse about their actions. Give guidance and practice tolerance as they slowly become accustomed to the new family situation; however long that may take.

5. Access to Both Parents

More often than not, children of divorce yearn to have untethered access to both parents so they can maintain a good relationship and for their overall wellbeing. The children's needs must take center-stage above all else, so they can get through this unscathed as many children in these situations do. More so, kids deserve a happy relationship with each parent without feeling the need to take sides when there is conflict.

If both parents are on the same page, they will do everything possible to achieve this goal, including putting away their differences and communicating directly with each other. Sole custody arrangements should not deter one parent from keeping in touch; they can email, text, call as often as necessary to keep the relationship secure.

Finding the Best San Diego Divorce Lawyer Near Me

Planning for a divorce helps in smoothing things over, so there is less anger between the partners. You can discuss when and how to inform the kids, which parent moves out, and other details in the new arrangement. Emotions may run high and make things more difficult but putting a united front helps to avoid the pitfalls that occur children of divorce. You want well-adjusted children who develop into healthy adults without the emotional baggage that holds people back from enjoying life.

San Diego Divorce Attorney has a wealth of experience in family law, and we have a dedicated team of experts ready to answer your questions. We shall help you end the marriage as painless as possible and have workable arrangements to aid in parenting moving forward. Contact us at 619-610-7425 for a free consultation with the best legal minds in town.


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