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Explaining Divorce To Kids: How They React At Different Ages

Explaining Divorce To Kids | Montclair and Nutley | Micklin Law Group

“I’m worried about how my children will react to the news that their mom and I are splitting up. I don’t want them hurting the way I am.”

It’s one of the most-frequently expressed concerns I hear from fathers as they begin the divorce process. It’s a legitimate concern and there are proven ways of handling the issue that I’ll discuss in a moment. Until now, there’s been no way of predicting how youngsters will react. But a new, extensive and thorough study by University College London gives us a good clue.

Some 6,000 children born in the United Kingdom in 2000 were followed for about 17 years. Researchers discovered that those whose parents split up when the kids are between ages seven and 14 are 16-percent more likely to suffer emotional and behavioral problems than those whose parents stay together.

The good news is that there is no difference in the emotional well-being of children who were between three and seven, as well as those 15 and older, whose folks divorced and those in the same age groups who stayed together. The scientists behind the research believe that divorce is more damaging to early adolescents than to younger or older children because they are exceptionally sensitive to the dynamics of a poor parental relationship.

While it’s a British study, the university looked at the results from enough children that its findings are, in general, applicable to provide insight and guidance for men and fathers in New Jersey getting a divorce.

Custody Argument

The study uncovered some interesting statistics about the emotional problems of mothers post-divorce, and may lend another argument in favor of men who want sole or shared custody of their children.

Published in the academic journal Social Science and Medicine, most children in the study lived with their mother. On average, mothers reported suffering more mental health problems than those who still lived with their partners if they separated when the children were older. They also had a tougher time financially.

This is believed to be the result of the financial impact of divorce being greater when it occurs later in the marriage.

While New Jersey family courts are slowly beginning to recognize the desire – and ability – of fathers to have custody of the children, this study may lend some added credence to our argument that making the father the custodial parent is in “the best interests of the children.” This is the guiding principle judges must use in issuing custody orders.

As a New Jersey lawyer representing men and fathers in a divorce, the research certainly is another arrow in our quiver in making the argument on your behalf.

Telling Kids About Divorce

So, there is some scientific validity to the old adage of “we’re staying together for the kid’s sake” but it depends on the age of the children.

Yet regardless of how old your kids might be, a divorce is never easy on them. There are ways of giving the sad news to children regardless of their age that may lessen the emotional toll it takes.

The very best way is for you and your wife to tell them together. Explain that even though mom and dad won’t be living together any longer, you each still love the children as much as always. Be sure to stress that the divorce is not their fault and that they are not responsible for the break-up of the marriage, which is how many youngsters of all ages internalize and process the information.

If possible, explain the custody arrangements and how much time the children will be spending with each parent. If an agreement has not yet been reached, then put it in terms that you will continue to be involved in their life and plan to see as many of their games, recitals or school and church or synagogue events as before. But say this only if it is true; if part of the divorce means you’ll be moving to another city, then don’t make something up just so they feel better at the moment,

If you or a man you know is considering a divorce, we can help them find a way to tell their children, resolve custody and support issues and move the complex process along. Please call me or any of our family and divorce lawyers at either 973.562.0100 in Nutley or in Montclair at 862.245.4620. I know what you’re going through and we can help you achieve your goals in the divorce.

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