Children’s Developmental Reactions to Divorce, By Age

20 Jul

6- to 7-Year Olds

  • are able to only deal with the “here and now”
  • are more likely to talk about his or her feelings
  • begin to assume responsibility for the family
  • express anger and sadness
  • avoid school and uses stomach aches or headaches as excuses to stay home
  • feel rejected by non-custodial parent as if the parent left “them”

8- to 12-Year Olds

  • become very angry at both parents or blame one parent for the divorce
  • lose interest in school or a former favorite activity
  • feel real grief, anxiety, loneliness and helplessness
  • easily manipulated by parents against the other
  • attempt to care for parents
  • complain of headaches and stomach aches
  • wonder about the immediate future
  • experience problems with concentration
  • attempt to get parents back together

13- to 17-Years Old

  • become aware of the realities of divorce
  • avoid being involved in parents’ arguments
  • worried about money, particularly as to how the lack of it may affect them
  • experience loyalty conflict when one parent begins a new relationship
  • experience increased sexual activity, alcohol, drug use, or acting out behavior
  • manipulate parents in order to get more freedom, clothes, etc.
  • worried about own future relationships, marriage, and parent’s sexuality
  • spend more time with friends outside the home
  • desire a flexible schedule for visitation with the non-custodial parent
  • desire parental contact and rules even though they don’t act like it
  • assume a “parentified” role with family members

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