Children Are More Traumatized by Divorce at Certain Ages

Elementary aged children need more support during divorces, as they tend to internalize the break up.


With the divorce rate as high as it is, there are a huge number of children out there who come from homes with divorced parents. Many, if not most of them, are fine. They may struggle with relationships more than children who grew up in intact families, and they may be more likely to suffer depression and anxiety than their together-family counterparts. But on the whole, most of them work through the difficulties of divorce and go on to live rich and fulfilling lives. However, new research is showing that age may have something to do with that.


Certain ages are more susceptible to divorce-related trauma.


Child psychologist Dr. Scott Carroll, who was interviewed for an article in, says that teens and babies can weather divorce far better than elementary aged kids. Children younger than two aren’t truly aware of what’s happening when their parents get divorced, Carroll says, but even two year olds can form long some long term memories, and they would be aware of the emotional changes, and the missing person, in their family.


From there, the susceptible age rises quickly until the child reaches their teens. Three to eleven seem to be the ages most affected, with eleven being the peak of that time period. The reason, he says, is because children had some time to understand the significance of their parent’s relationship, and to develop deep attachments to both parents. However, they’re still very egocentric because they haven’t developed emotional independence, and so they’re more likely to internalize the break up of their family.


How the divorce plays out can increase the trauma!


Divorces with a lot of conflict and fighting can make the trauma even worse for the child. Situations where one parent bad-mouths the other one, or the parents fight in front of the children makes the divorce even more stressful for children in that age bracket. In some cases, Carroll says, the fighting can be so bad that the divorce is almost a relief for the child. But in most situations, the fighting alone can make the divorce that much more difficult for them to process.


Another aspect of divorce that can make it so much harder for elementary age kids to handle, is when one parent is suddenly cut off from the kids. When one parent moves out and hardly visits, or is not allowed to see the children because the other parent is feeling vindictive, the children suffer. And for kids who are in that vulnerable age, when they struggle to understand what is happening and feel the loss of a parent keenly, this can make it even harder for them to work through the pain.


What are the possible solutions to this problem?


Carroll says that teens are often capable of the critical thinking needed to understand the reasons behind a divorce, without internalizing it. So perhaps waiting until your children are a little older and less likely to be traumatized is an option to consider. If waiting isn’t an option, consider getting your young child additional support, like therapy or counselling, during and after the divorce to ensure that they have the help they need. Another point Carroll makes is that parents who do decide to get divorced while their kids are young, should be extra careful in how they handle the process. Minimize fighting in front of your kids, and whenever possible, be sure to allow both parents lots of time together with the children.

As family law attorneys, we’ve helped countless families with children navigate their divorces. We understand the complexities involved in handling custody issues, and setting up visitation schedules. An attorney who doesn’t handle many child custody cases can become confused by the procedure. This could cost you your case, and potentially even your custody rights. Our skilled family law attorneys have the experience and knowledge to help you preserve your parenting rights. Call 866 766 5245 to get the right help today.