A Parents’ Guide to Children and Divorce
Divorce is one of the most traumatic experiences a person can go through, whether they’re a spouse or a child of divorcing parents. Let’s look at some of the facts behind divorce and its effects on children, including how parents can help ensure their children are well-adjusted despite the divorce.
How Common Is Divorce
We’ve all heard the statistic that 50% of marriages end in divorce, but is that really true? That depends largely on when the marriage began — people married after about 1990 have a much higher chance of still being married.
Percentage of divorced couples, by decade of marriage (1)
- 1960s: 38%
- 1970s: 45%
- 1980s: 48%
- 1990s: 34%
- 2000s: 14%
The likelihood of divorce also varies by where you live.
States by divorce rate (divorces per 1,000 people) (2)
West Virginia: 11
New Mexico: 10
North Carolina: 10
Rhode Island: 9
South Dakota: 9
New Hampshire: 9
South Carolina: 8
North Dakota: 8
District of Columbia: 7
New York: 7
New Jersey: 6
The chances of divorce also increase with each subsequent marriage.
Percentage of marriages ending in divorce (3)
- First: 41%
- Second: 60%
- Third: 73%
Divorce and Children
While each child and family are unique, divorce has some common effects on children.
U.S. children whose parents divorce each year (4)
Couples with children divorce at a rate 40% lower than those who don’t have children. (3)
Children living with a divorced parent who live in a household below the poverty line (3)
1 in 2
American children who will see the breakup of parent’s marriage (3)
The negative effects of divorce are most common in the years after the divorce.
Common short-term emotional effects of divorce on children (5)
- Lack of concentration
- Fear of abandonment
Sometimes these negative emotional effects can last through adulthood.
1 in 4
Adults with divorced parents who experience serious emotional, social and psychological trouble (4)
Helping Your Child Through
For many people considering divorce, the impact on their children is their primary concern. Here are some tips for helping ensure your child comes through as emotionally unscathed as possible. (6, 7)
Be honest and clear with your children about what’s happening and what will change in their lives.
Present a united front if you can — agree in advance what you’ll say to your children and be consistent.
Give your children a chance to express their feelings honestly and without judgment.
Consider a group program, whether it’s run by private counsellors or the child’s school.
Keep conflict between you and the child’s other parent away from the child.
Don’t use children as messengers or go-betweens, especially when emotions are running hot.
Expect resistance when you or your ex-spouse begin dating someone new.
Remember to take care of yourself physically and emotionally throughout the process.