Portrait of John K Grubb

Texas Divorce and Prenuptial Agreement

4550 Post Oak Place, Suite 201 • Houston, Texas 77027-3139

Phone: 713-877-8800 • Fax: 713-877-1229

Divorce Frightens Children, Too

“My children aren’t the same after we told them we were divorcing.”

Although divorce is disquieting, most adults can handle the stress. Children, on the other hand, tend to be petrified when their parents tell them they’re splitting up. Life’s experiences have not yet given them the opportunity to develop methods or the support networks to deal with their anxiety.

Don’t expect your children to behave as if nothing has happened. It’s important to realize that your divorce will change their environment, family relationships, and social networks and recognize their fears. Children often perceive their parent’s parting ways as making their home and their lives unstable, and they are unsure what will happen next.

Changing routines frighten children. Suddenly, they are living in more than one house. It may be weekdays with Mom and weekends with Dad. Or one parent may have custody of the older children and the other parent custody of the younger. Children’s anxiety can go farther than adjusting to more than one house.

Children worry that their relationships with family members will change. They are afraid of being separated from their siblings, of not seeing grandparents, or that the non-custodial parent’s visitations will not be frequent enough and the parent will forget them. If a parent that was a stay-at-home mom or dad starts working, children might view this as a way to get away from them. If a parent remarries, they are suspicious that the new spouse will take the place of their “real” mom or dad.

Divorce frequently means relocation. If the custodial parent moves to a new neighborhood for whatever reason – financial, employment, or just a change of scenery – the children are presented with an additional uncertainty. They are faced with the prospects of a new school and new activities. Moving breaks a child’s support network. Suddenly they wonder if they will ever see the best friend they played with every day again.

Children know that they must make new friends, adapt to playing on new sports teams and develop relationships with their teammates when they move. Sometimes being a child of divorce means that they must build new social relationships with old friends just because their parents are no longer a couple. Sometimes a child will become less active because of fear that he or she won’t be accepted into new circles.

Never forget that children will notice everything, even a changed standard of living. If there’s less money for toys, activities such as movies or dance, music, or martial arts lessons, or if they find they can’t have the clothes they want, they become apprehensive. They are scared that they won’t be accepted in social groups at school or their neighborhood. They wonder if others will want to be friends with them if they don’t have the “right” clothes or the latest and greatest toy or video game to share.

It’s important to know the things that children will be most afraid of when you and your spouse divorce. Being aware of your child’s fears will help you start honest conversations with them and reassure them that, although their parents now have separate homes, both their parents will still be involved in their lives and be there for them.

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