Social comparison is a core element of human nature. It’s the impact of divorce on children pdf we evaluate ourselves. It can make us feel lackluster—especially in the age of social media. But you don’t have to succumb.
In response to my blog about single parenting adolescents, I received this email request: “I was wondering if you could address the effects of divorce on very small children. Understand that I am talking here about tendencies, not certainties.
Divorce introduces a massive change into the life of a boy or girl no matter what the age. Witnessing loss of love between parents, having parents break their marriage commitment, adjusting to going back and forth between two different households, and the daily absence of one parent while living with the other, all create a challenging new family circumstance in which to live.
In the personal history of the boy or girl, parental divorce is a watershed event. Life that follows is significantly changed from how life was before. Somewhat different responses to this painful turn of events occur if the boy or girl is still in childhood or has entered adolescence.
Consider why this variation may be so. The child’s world is a dependent one, closely connected to parents who are favored companions, heavily reliant on parental care, with family the major locus of one’s social life.
The adolescent world is a more independent one, more separated and distant from parents, more self-sufficient, where friends have become favored companions, and where the major locus of one’s social life now extends outside of family into a larger world of life experience. For the young child, divorce shakes trust in dependency on parents who now behave in an extremely undependable way.
They surgically divide the family unit into two different households between which the child must learn to transit back and forth, for a while creating unfamiliarity, instability, and insecurity, never being able to be with one parent without having to be apart from the other. Convincing a young child of the permanence of divorce can be hard when his intense longing fantasizes that somehow, some way, mom and dad will be living back together again someday. He relies on wishful thinking to help allay the pain of loss, holding onto hope for a parental reunion much longer than does the adolescent who is quicker to accept the finality of this unwelcome family change.