Children often are told when they are young that they can be whatever they want to be. They are encouraged to strive for what they want and work hard to achieve their goals. No matter what obstacles they may face, they are inspired to overcome what may attempt to derail them from their desired outcome.
However, some believe that the presence of a childhood trauma can complicate the ability to achieve these goals and even prevent them, in some cases. There is sometimes an assumption that a child’s development may be stunted by the situation. They feel that the emotional toll that the trauma may cause may be too much to overcome, causing the need for the achievements to be adjusted accordingly.
One of the more common childhood traumas that a child may face is a parental divorce.
Children and parental divorce
A parental divorce can be difficult to overcome at a young age. Children react differently to the initial news, and their behavior in the weeks and months following may reflect the challenges they are facing internally.
Children are creatures of habit and need a routine as a means to aid their development. If the child is in school, they may be impacted by the changes this may cause to their school and social life. They may be forced to confront the awkwardness of the situation among their teachers and peers at the one place they may feel safest: school.
It may affect their academic achievement during the initial difficulty of the experience and has a chance of affecting future romantic relationships.
However, it does not limit the possibility of them achieving long-term success when they become adults, nor achieve their developmental milestones as they grow up.
As difficult of an emotional hurdle that a parental divorce may be, children still have the ability to reach their goals. Some may consider a parental divorce to be a life sentence that prevents the advancement of a child, as they get older.
They feel that a child does not have a parental marriage and home to provide the stability necessary to grow and develop to the same extent.
However, there are many factors that come into play when discussing the growth and development of a child, let alone a child of divorce. The age and maturity level play a factor in developmental milestones and how they interact with a child’s home, social, school, and personal lives.
Childhood and adolescence
For a child experiencing a parental divorce, the mental and emotional toll that this situation places on them can be great, and the length of the adjustment period to the new situation can be affected by their age, according to Psychology Today.
That being said, a child has the ability to “get used” to their new dynamics with their parents after the adjustment period. This enables them to focus less on what they once had in their home life and more on what they may have going for them in their school and social life.
This also can be supported by the notion of how much a child focuses on their social and school life throughout their adolescent years. It is an action that establishes greater independence from their parents, according to the American Psychological Association.
As much as a parental divorce may initially affect their ability to form specific types of relationships, they still have the ability to overcome that notion through the acceptance of their peers and through the diversity that naturally occurs during their high school years. They are more likely to interact with peers, whose tolerance toward different backgrounds provide the comfort that a child of divorce may seek out.
They are more comfortable confiding in peers, who may be going through their own form of struggles. These conversations are forms of bonding that can provide the building blocks to continued social development.
They also begin to speak to teachers as fellow adults during the later years of high school. They find themselves more comfortable discussing what may be going on at home, and teachers find themselves offering insight on navigating the ins and outs of the issues that they may be discussing.
As a parent, you should take comfort that your child may wish to confide in a teacher or a peer, regarding any issues they may have with their parental divorce. They may need these outlets to offer clarity and provide the catharsis that they need during their more difficult moments.
College and early adulthood
As they reach their college years and early adulthood, they may find themselves in a larger environment of the comfort. These are ages where the diversity of the human experience makes an event like a parental divorce seem less devastating, in comparison to what others may be going through. Thus, the mental anguish that a childhood or adolescent parental divorce may incite is no longer a mainstay thought in the child’s mind.
Studies have shown that gender is a determining factor in who is more likely to be affected by a parental divorce in their college years. The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder, found that women of the study were more adversely affected by a childhood parental divorce than men.
This was attributed to the effects that a parental divorce may have on the father-daughter relationship. There was a sense of independence and separation from the traditional parent-child dynamic, causing psychological separation.
That said, the quality of social support has a positive influence on a college student and young adult. According to a study at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the social support that a college student or young adult who has been through a parental divorce receives has a positive influence, in terms of relationship confidence and career expectations.
The study also found that there was a significant relationship between confidence levels and the amount of social support received. This indicates that as long as a college student or young adult who has gone through a parental divorce is supported often and well, they are able to achieve the same type of professional and personal successes that form the early identity of a young adult, as someone who did not experience a parental divorce.
Never ‘permanently injured’
Like most types of traumas that occur at developmental ages, a parental divorce is usually a formative event, but as the child gets older and grows into a fully-fledged adult, they do not often become permanently injured in a debilitating way by this change in their lives.
They have experienced adversity through a parental divorce, which builds strength and independence they may not have had otherwise. They are able to take on the world in their own way, allowing for the successes that life may have to offer.
Dan Pearce is an Online Editor for Lexicon, focusing on subjects related to the legal services of customers, Cordell & Cordell and Cordell Planning Partners. He has written countless pieces on MensDivorce.com, detailing the plight of men and fathers going through the divorce experience, as well as the issues seniors and their families experience throughout the estate planning journey on ElderCareLaw.com. Mr. Pearce has managed websites and helped create content, such as the Men’s Divorce Newsletter and the YouTube series, “Men’s Divorce Countdown.” He also has been a contributor on both the Men’s Divorce Podcast and ElderTalk with TuckerAllen.
Mr. Pearce assisted in fostering a Cordell Planning Partners practice area specific for Veterans, as they deal with the intricacies of their benefits while planning for the future. He also helped create the Cordell Planning Partners Resource Guide and the Cordell Planning Partners Guide to Alternative Residence Options, specific for seniors with questions regarding their needs and living arrangements.