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The Impact of Divorce on Young Children and Adolescents

by Norris Law Group on November 22, 2013

The Impact of Divorce on Young Children and AdolescentsIn his book 2013 book entitled “Surviving Your Child’s Adolescence,” Carl Pickhardt, Ph.D addresses the impact that divorce can have on young children and adolescents. Dr. Pickhardt, a child psychologist practicing in the Austin, TX area, says that no matter what, divorce has a profound effect on children of any age.

In an article published in Psychology Today on December 19, 2011, Dr. Pickhardt opines that divorce often means the “end of the world” as a child has known it up to that point, especially if the child has grown up in a two-parent household and then bears witness to the parents’ breakup.

He goes on to write that the experience of divorce is very different based on the age of the child. Divorce throws the insular world of the family into turmoil, and young children and adolescents can react very differently to it.  For younger children, the family unit is likely the “locus” of their social lives, and divorce throws this into turmoil. They have to adjust to having two homes instead of one, and “old friends” may be gone suddenly, replaced by “new friends.” As young children are typically more dependent on the family unit, they may even exhibit regressive behaviors (bedwetting, thumbsucking, tantrums, and the like). Conversely, adolescent life offers more independence, and older children may already be striking out on their own a bit more apart from the family unit to participate in sports, school activities, social groups, etc. But like young children, adolescents also feel the effects of a divorce very deeply. Rather than regressing, adolescents may engage in more aggressive behaviors, such as acting out, talking back to authority figures, physical violence and/or bullying.

Dr. Pickhardt suggests that divorcing parents with adolescents nurture the older child’s natural tendency toward seeking independence, especially as the family unit as he/she knows it disbands. For parents of young children who choose to divorce, he recommends that both parents observe “the Three R’s” of Routines, Rituals, and Reassurance to foster their trust in security, familiarity, and dependency.

Attorney Graham Norris and his associates at the Norris Law Group serve the residents of Utah County and throughout Utah in the area of divorce. Contact them today at 801-932-1238 or online for a free consultation.

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