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Kids deal with divorce differently depending on their age

For divorcing parents, the battle over child custody and visitation may be even more contentious than their disputes over property and asset division. It's essential for parents to keep these battles away from their children. Whatever happens in your attorneys' offices or court needs to stay there. Don't bring it home to your kids.

It's not uncommon for kids whose parents are going through a divorce to have difficulty handling it. How their feelings manifest themselves depends in large part on their age.

Young children (approximately age 7 and under) see the world through self-centered eyes. They commonly believe that their parents' break-up must have something to do with them, so they blame themselves. These children may revert to behaviors they'd outgrown and perhaps become unusually clingy as they deal with the new uncertainty in their lives and fears of abandonment.

Kids who are a little older, but still not adolescents, may feel more of a sense of duty to get their parents back together. They've likely seen "The Parent Trap" and other movies where kids conspire to reunite their divorced parents. They're not yet old enough to understand the intricacies of relationships. They also may not understand the permanence of divorce -- particularly if they've seen their parents separate and reunite before.

Adolescents have a better understanding of the world, and may be more angry about the break-up. They're more likely to have made up their mind about which parent is to blame, whether they know the whole story or not. Therefore, they often side with one parent and reject the other. Parents can and should work to discourage this, even if your child is taking your "side."

Adolescents are more likely than younger kids to show anger and aggression. Parents sometimes have serious disciplinary issues with older kids during divorce. That's just one reason why parents should work together to deal with their children's issues regarding the divorce. Unresolved issues over parental divorce can impact kids well into adulthood and in turn poison their own relationships.

No matter what age your children are, if you need guidance in helping them deal with their feelings, your family law attorney can likely recommend a psychologist in your area who has experience counseling kids and families going through divorce.

Source: Our Family Wizard, "Why Divorce is So Hard on Children," accessed March 29, 2018

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