Skip to content
Young girl with parents in background talking about divorce

How Divorce Affects Children (and How You Can Help)

January 23, 2019

If you’re like many parents considering divorce, your main concern is your kids’ well-being. You want to make sure they come out of this okay – and the good news is that most kids adjust well over time.

How Divorce Affects Children: What You Need to Know

In the short-term, divorce affects the majority of kids. Most experience things like anxiety, anger, shock and disbelief – but these reactions usually diminish or completely disappear by the second year.

Most kids also do well in the long-term.

How Divorce Affects ChildrenIt’s not the divorce that’s affecting kids negatively. In fact, repeated studies have shown that high levels of parental conflict is what really causes kids to adjust poorly over time. Many children whose parents fight a lot – or who create a tense, unhappy environment – are relieved when they find out about the impending divorce.

The first year is usually the hardest.

But with all that said, every child reacts to divorce differently. According to psychologist Dr. Carl E. Pickhardt, author of 15 parenting books, some of that has to do with normal developmental milestones.

“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,” says Pickhardt. “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.”

When kids are young, it’s harder for them to remain confident in how dependable each parent is. And often, that results in wishful thinking – that mom and dad will get back together again someday.

As teens cope with divorce, they often try to take more control over their own lives. Sometimes that involves behaving more defiantly.

“He feels increasingly autonomous in a family situation that feels disconnected. He now feels more impelled and entitled to act on his own,” says Pickhardt.

Key takeaways:

  • Young kids may have a tough time understanding why their lives are split into two compartments: one with mom, and one with dad. They might also worry that their parents’ love for them isn’t permanent.
  • Grade-school kids might feel like the divorce is their fault.
  • Teenagers can become angry about the big changes, and they might blame one parent more than the other.

So what can you do to help your kids cope with divorce?

How Divorce Affects Children – And How You Can Help

How Divorce Affects Children – And How You Can HelpOne of the best things you can do for your children during and after divorce is establish a sense of predictability. Pickhardt says you can do so by “observing the three R's required to restore a child's trust in security, familiarity, and dependency - Routines, Rituals, and Reassurance.” Routines show kids what to expect and give kids room to create rituals so they feel more in control. Reassurance – well, we all need reassurance from time to time. It’s important that you show your child you’re still connected and that no matter what, a parent’s love for a child never changes.

Use these tips to help your children cope with divorce:

  • Keep them away from visible conflict. Don’t have “heated” discussions in front of them, and don’t talk about the legal aspects of your case in front of them.
  • Try to minimize disruptions to their daily routines.
  • Don’t say bad things about your ex to – or in front of – your children.
  • Make sure that both of you remain involved in your kids’ lives.

It’s your job as a parent to let your children know that you recognize and care about their feelings. You can help them cope with those feelings by letting them know that it’s okay to be upset and by answering their questions as honestly as you can. (Don’t go into the grisly details, but do tell the truth when you can do so without putting blame on their other parent.)

Be prepared to answer questions like:

  • Where will I live?
  • Where will I go to school?
  • Where will you (or their other parent) live?
  • What will happen during holidays?
  • Will I still be with my friends?
  • Can I still participate in…?

Are You a Parent Who’s Considering Divorce?

If you’re thinking about divorce, or if your spouse has already filed for divorce, you may need to talk to a Fort Collins divorce attorney about your situation. We can answer your questions about child custody and child support, spousal maintenance (alimony), property division and anything else related to divorce.

Call us at 970-488-1887 for a free divorce consultation with an experienced, knowledgeable and compassionate divorce lawyer now. We’re here for you.

December 12, 2020
COVID-19 Vaccines and Children in Divorce

COVID-19 numbers are on the rise, and so is promising talk of an effective vaccine. If you’re a parent of a young child, you are concerned for the best interest of your child, and access to the vaccine is likely something that you are thinking about. If you are divorced or otherwise co-parenting, you are […]

September 14, 2020
High Conflict Custody Attorneys in Fort Collins and Greeley

A skilled high conflict child custody attorney can manage and reduce conflict and stress when establishing or modifying parenting time and decision making. High conflict custody can include claims of alienation and child endangerment, disputes over the regular parenting time, vacation and holiday parenting time, communications, and much more. When conflict is high the children […]

September 1, 2020
Parental Alienation Attorneys in Fort Collins and Greeley

Parental alienation harms children, in the short term and in the long run. Parental alienation can be a difficult issue to address with the courts. In parental alienation cases each parent may be classified as the Rejected or Disfavored parent while the other may be referred to as the Favored Parent. Understanding parental alienation requires […]

July 27, 2020
Domestic Violence and Divorce in Fort Collins

Divorce is a stressful event. The threat of violence not only increases this stress, but also puts at risk the people involved. If the threat of violence already exists in a marriage, there is a high likelihood that a divorce will trigger that violence; if the marriage has seen no violence, the additional stress of […]

Fort Collins Divorce & Child Support Attorneys

Tom Cossitt

Tom Cossitt, Esq.

Family Law
Suzanne Ewy

Suzanne Ewy, Esq.

Family Law
Carla Jaquess

Carla Jaquess, Esq.

Family Law
Jenna Hardesty

Jenna Hardesty, Paralegal

Family Law


  • "I am very appreciative of Toms services. English is a second language to me, and this process seemed difficult because of that barrier. He was very patient and thorough making sure I understood everything before he proceeded. I will recommend him to everyone! He truly cares about you, as does his wonderful, helpful team"

    Review from AVVO

  • "I had a very challenging case, one that could have had indefinite financial consequences. Tom Cossitt evaluated my case and identified several strategies for moving forward. I chose one and Tom developed and implemented that strategy with speed and with the utmost in professionalism. The documents he drafted on my behalf, based on extensive research and case law / precedent were thorough and comprehensive. When the Court ruled, it used the arguments as developed by Tom Cossitt verbatim in its decision, and the case was decided in my favor. Needless to say, I was pleased beyond words. Based on my experience and the outcome of my case, I would highly recommend Tom Cossitt to anyone requiring the services of a family law attorney."

    Review from Google

  • "I met with as many as 10 different attorneys before coming across Thomas. After our initial consultation, I was very pleased with his knowledge and realistic expectations. During the really tough time, Thomas kept me calm and helped tremendously to get custody of my daughter. He kept me informed on what was going on and would ask for my input; if it was something that was unrealistic or could be done a different way, Thomas would tell me right away. During the hearings, he was amazing. He kept a professional attitude and was great at cross examinations. He took in all of the facts and evidence, and was able to present them efficiently and effectively. Ultimately helping me gain custody of my child."

    Review from AVVO

The Cossitt Difference: Fort Collins Divorce Attorneys That Care

AFCC Colorado Logo
Law Week Colorado Logo
Colorado Bar Assocation Logo
Fort Collins Chamber Logo
Super Lawyers Logo
Lead Counsel Verified Logo
Avvo Client's Choice Logo
Expertise Logo

Schedule a Consultation with one of our Fort Collins Family Law Attorneys

(970) 488-1887
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram