Children exposed to divorce deal with long-lasting trauma

 In the summer of second grade, my mom and dad got divorced. Thankfully, my parents were able to protect me from most of the drama going on in the breakdown of their marriage, but there was no way to avoid the trauma. 

  My dad slept in a separate room for months but my second grade brain didn’t know why. That summer, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents and extended family. I thought that was normal, not my parents trying to protect me from all the bad things that were happening in my whole family. Over the years, I’d have multiple breakdowns after my mom was moved into a different house. My mom’s best friend started coming around my dad’s house a lot more often. She eventually moved in, along with her children. But I could not seem to figure out what was going on.

   Suddenly, I had a step mother and everything changed. Little things would change around the house and every time, it would give me anxiety and I would throw a fit.  I didn’t understand why we had to paint the walls, take out trees, paint the house, and make the closet look nice. I hated every part of it, because I felt like he was trying to erase my mom’s memory.

   On March 27, 2020. I was done. I said that I didn’t want to step foot into my dad’s house again. I had to tell my dad that I didn’t want to live with him. That was definitely the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. Our relationship was forever changed.

   The pressure of being there for my sister got to be the most challenging. I learned how to be protective. However, I also learned that I had my own problems. I had to go get counseling to try to ease the uncertainty that I had in my life. According to the Center For Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders website (“Child Anxiety- Divorce Therapy for Children” “going through a divorce is stressful enough for the couple involved, but when children are added to the mix, it can trigger a cycle of child anxiety. Among other things, a divorce can increase a child’s aggression, bring up separation anxiety, and a negative impact of social and school related performances. While also causing added stress and anxiety a child may already be having.” 

   The pressure of being a child while also having to deal with trauma can be very challenging for young children and teens. Although students with divorced parents are pretty common, an article on the University of Missouri Extension website (“Helping Children Adjust To Divorce: A Guide for Teacher” reported that one of every two divorced families in Missouri involves children and this big change can cause a lot of trauma in a child’s life. Children have a greater risk of problems such as aggression, depression, lower self-esteem and poorer school performance, however most children adjust to divorce successfully.

   Growing up, times were tough. My whole family got ripped away from me. I started having two of everything. Two birthdays, two Christmases, two Thanksgivings, etc. A typical day looks different when having divorced parents. Things like wanting to wear a certain shirt, or forgetting your school bag at the other parents’ house, can be a challenge. I started to adjust to little things, like bringing my tennis shoes to my dad’s house knowing I would have P.E. on a Thursday. 

   While my story is unique, it is not entirely unlike stories of children of parents who go through divorce. Consider the mental and emotional effects divorce has on children when making a life changing decision such as divorce. These changes can be the hardest years of their lives and they need extra support to adapt and be able to cope.