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How Divorce Affects Children Mentally And How To Cope With It?

Dr. Rimsha Moubeen

5 min read

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Divorce is one of the most traumatizing times a person goes through, especially women since it is a taboo in Pakistan. Divorces have been increasing in Pakistan too.

A few top reasons for divorces are cheating, second marriages, and physical/emotional abuse.

Many people may choose to stay in toxic or abusive marriages for the sake of their kids. Divorces can get ugly for adults and children.

Dissolution of marriages can have a lasting impact on a child’s mental health and may cause behavioral changes. Every child may process their emotions in a different way. The circumstances before and after the divorce may also determine how a child reacts to the divorce.

Consulting a Psychologist in Lahore is necessary to overcome the repercussions of the divorce. Parents need to put their children first and deal with the situation maturely.

In some cases, people may choose to stay in an unhealthy relationship, which can be worse for children compared to parting ways. You may find this article helpful if you are going through or have gone through a divorce, in which children were involved.

10 ways a divorce can affect your child’s mental health

1. Social withdrawal

Children may stop socializing with others as they may feel negative emotions. They may start to skip school and avoid social gatherings. Social withdrawal may occur as children can feel insecure, sad, or fearful of being bullied.

Staying away from socializing can have long-lasting effects, such as social anxiety and low self-image. Raise your kid’s confidence by encouraging them to indulge in new hobbies and praising them when they do well.

2. Poor performance in school

Children still processing their parent’s separation may lack interest in studies. Research shows that children experiencing divorce may get low grades, especially in the initial divorce period.

They may feel out of focus and be unable to concentrate or study due to the distraction from the divorce. Additionally, grief and trauma may also shift their focus from their studies.

3. Aggressive behavior

Anger is a common feeling that a child of divorce may go through. They may feel overwhelmed and respond aggressively to others during this time.

Rage or anger breakouts may happen at school, indicating that your child is having trouble dealing with their emotions. Childhood aggression can result in dangerous and harmful behavior if it does not get proper treatment from the Best Psychologist in Karachi.

4. Separation anxiety

As children are used to living with two parents, the absence of one parent may cause fear of abandonment and separation anxiety. They may feel they are losing a parent because they are not staying with them.

They have a habit of living with their parents, and when one of them is not there, they may feel that they are not secure or that their parent has abandoned them.

It can cause clingy behavior in children, such as declining to sleep alone, eating food, or refusing to go to school. Children may find it tough to understand that it may be a better decision for them in the long run. They may require counseling to heal from these feelings.

5. Refusing to eat and sleep

Children whose parents are parting ways may experience changes in their eating and sleeping patterns. As stress and anxiety may increase after the divorce, children may reject food due to loss of appetite.

Similarly, they may also have difficulty sleeping or not get sound sleep. It can further add to the irritability they feel and result in outbursts. It may also signal depression, in which instance, you may need to get professional help.

6. Depression

The trauma of going through your parent’s divorce makes children more prone to depression, in addition to, other mental health issues, such as anxiety and stress. Many other effects seen in children of parents’ separating paths link to depression. Common symptoms of childhood depression include:

  • Fatigue
  • Low concentration
  • Isolating from others
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Feeling worthless
  • Changes in appetite
  • Alterations in sleep patterns
  • Suicidal thoughts

It is essential to identify these signs in your child so that you can get help. If childhood depression remains untreated, it can lead to clinical depression as they grow up.

7. Risky behavior

Kids may indulge in risky behaviors, such as drug abuse, alcohol abuse, or sexual activity. They may make it their coping method, which can lead to addiction. It may not happen in the short run, but depending on the kid’s age, they may be prone to indulge in harmful behaviors.

Keep an eye out for signs that may signal that they are doing something dangerous. Give them a safe space to talk about their problems and speak the truth so that you can give them your opinion about what they are doing. Reacting harshly to their confession can have the reverse effect and may cause children to rebel more.

8. Relationship issues

Due to the trauma they go through during their parent’s divorce, children may have problems forming healthy relationships in their personal lives.

They may grow up with abandonment issues or issues with trusting people. It can make it hard for them to have normal relationships. It may also result in children losing faith in marriage and might be afraid to commit to a serious relationship.

9. Physical health issues

Stress in children can also show as physical symptoms in the form of headaches, tension, and fatigue. These can occur due to increased stress and other mental health problems. The dissolution of marriage can result in children getting sick more frequently.

Helping your child cope with divorce

Parents play a crucial role in how a divorce affects children. From the time you tell them about the divorce to the forthcoming years, your child may go through several emotions.

Take care of every child individually if you have more than one. Their reaction to the divorce may also depend on their nature and age. If parents work together to help their children get through the divorce, they may recover with time. Following are some ways how parents can assist their children in healing from the trauma of their parent’s divorce.

1. Avoid bringing kids in the middle!

No matter what disagreements you have with your ex-partner, you need to be able to communicate with them and not bring children in the middle. Conveying messages through them or making them pick sides can make it harder for them to deal with divorce.

2. Stay in touch with your child!

It is likely that you may neglect your child because of what is going on with you during or after a divorce. While self-care is vital to your well-being, your child may distance themselves from you. Stay involved in their lives by talking to them and keeping open communication. Give them a comfortable environment to talk about their feelings.

3. Reassure them

Children may feel insecure or may feel they are not loved when they see their parents part ways. They may also feel like it is because of them, which makes them feel guilty.

Regardless of what is going on between you and your spouse, reassure them that you and your ex-spouse will always love them. Avoid seeding negative emotions in their mind about their other parent and make them feel safe.

4. Do not overcompensate

Feeling guilty or trying to compensate your child with changes in routine can be detrimental to them. It may make them more stubborn and spoil them.

It is all right to do that sometimes, but doing it every time can send the wrong message. Make them stick to their routine and ensure you are not giving them too much leverage. Set some rules and limits and ensure that you follow through with them.

5. Co-parent peacefully

Facing your ex-partner, especially after a messy divorce, can be devastating. However, it is essential for the well-being of your children that you co-parent calmly.

Deal with your feelings so that you can stay calm around each other. Avoid shouting or fighting in front of your kids because it can have an adverse effect on their mental health. Keep the relationship cordial with each other to make it easier for your children to overcome the aftereffects of divorce.

6. Know when to get help

If you feel your child is going through physical signs of depression or any other health-related issues, seek help from a professional. Family therapy can also help resolve issues between parents and children.

Telling your child about the divorce

Letting your children know about your divorce can be an awkward conversation, but prepare them for what is coming. Discuss with them what is happening and how things may change may help them handle the divorce better.

Give them logical reasons why you and your spouse are leaving each other, especially if they are ten years or older. Be ready to face an uncertain reaction from your children and handle them accordingly. Tell them that it is not their fault. Inform their teachers about the situation to give them a heads up beforehand, and they can provide support.


Divorce can be challenging for children, as they have many emotions to process. The effects of divorce may usually occur in the first few years after the divorce until they get used to the new situation.

Some children face a highly toxic environment and may even see it as something positive. Happy parents, even if they do not stay under the same roof, can provide their children with a pleasant environment.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Rimsha Moubeen
Dr. Rimsha Moubeen - Author Dr. Rimsha Moubeen is a Psychologist with 3 years of experience. You can book an in-person appointment or an online video consultation with Dr. Rimsha Moubeen through oladoc.com or by calling at 04238900939.

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