What Divorce Does to Kids

The other day, I was cleaning out some files and came across a poem, written by a divorced mom on behalf of her two children. The poem had no title, so I’ve given it the title: “My Daddy Doesn’t Live Here.” It’s heartbreaking to read, but it’s a good reminder of how divorce affects kids. 

My Daddy doesn’t live here.
He divorced my Mom, you see.
So, now it’s just my Mom and sister, 
Living in the house with me.
My Daddy talks about my Mom.
My Mom talks about him, too.
It’s not at all like the nice things,
That they used to say and do.
My Daddy has a new wife,
And she has kids of her own.
They see my Dad more than I do, 
One even lives in his home.
Daddy’s new wife doesn’t like my Mom.
My Mom can’t stand her at all.
She tells my Mom, “You need a man, and you need to get a life.”
My Mom says she has had enough and doesn’t need the strife.
They always fuss and fight, 
Each time they ever call. 
But it’s my sister and me that are left confused and hurt,
Each time they have a brawl.
I’m almost ten years old now, 
And my sister’s almost nine.
Mom tells us things will get better,
These things just take time.
What happened to the love
That my parents had once shown?
The love that brought me and my sister here,
The same love that now is gone?
What does it mean and how can it be?
What does it leave for my sister and me?
Are we rich to have two sets of parents, 
So much more love to be shared?
If my parents had worked to save their marriage, 
Then I would know that they really cared.

Maybe you’ve reached a place in your marriage where you’re considering divorce. If so, you have no doubt thought through all that would mean for you and those around you…especially your kids. Know that apart from you and your spouse, no one will be more affected by your divorce than your kids.

Please hear this…

  • This post is not meant to inflict guilt, shame or hurt on parents who have divorced or might be considering divorce.
  • This post is not meant to suggest you should overlook, minimize or excuse situations where a spouse is being abusive to their family.
  • This post is not meant to imply that you should always stay together for the kids, no matter what.

Neither is this post saying that just because a kid goes through their parents’ divorce they are a irrevocably destined to a life of hurt, pain and difficulty. That would be unrealistic. But it is just as unrealistic to believe that a child can go through their parents divorce and not be affected and changed.

The following are some ways in which kids are impacted by their parents divorce:

Divorce can dent their sense of stability. For pre-divorce children, having a mom and a dad who are together is like one of the unquestionable laws of the universe. To them it’s like gravity. Can you imagine what your life would be like if suddenly there was no gravity? Imagine how unstable things would feel and how hard it would be to get your bearings? This is the way it is for kids going through their parents divorce…especially for pre-divorce children.

Divorce can change their definition of love and commitment. I imagine you have told your children multiple times, “I will always love you and be here for you.” It’s important to assure you children of this, but children believe moms and dads also feel the same about each other. So when they go through their parent’s divorce, it causes kids to question either their parents’ credibility or their definition of love and commitment.

Divorce can cause them to look else where for love and stability. Kids crave love in the form of attention. This requires time. Attention and time are often in short supply for parents embroiled in the emotional gauntlet of divorce. So when someone comes into a kid’s life who is willing to give them the time and attention they crave, the kid easily mistakes it for the love they crave…making it easy to overlook “red flags in harmful relationships.

Divorce can inject fear into their relationships. Parents serve as a sort of blue print for relationships. It’s this blueprint that helps kids judge whether other people are safe and stable. When mom and dad (supposedly the safest, most secure people in the world) divorce, it causes kids to expect other relationships to be unstable. Consequently, kids can grow up guarded in their relationships and fearful of winding up hurt again.

Divorce can imprint an underlying insecurity on their own marriage. The only example a kid has of marriage is the one they saw growing up. If that marriage ended in divorce, children can be especially fearful and insecure about what will happen to their own marriage. Children of divorce will be overly worried and sensitive to anything in their marriage that feels unstable or reminds them of their parents marriage. This insecurity can cause them to become either overly defensive or overly clingy when they feel threatened. Both of these reactions can contribute to the demise of their own marriage.

Once again, none of this is meant to induce guilt or fear in the heart of a parent who is divorced. Many kids have come from divorced homes and still been great kids and great adults.

But if you’re considering divorce, this post is merely meant to encourage you to do everything you possibly can to repair and rebuild your marriage…for yourself AND the kids.

2 thoughts on “What Divorce Does to Kids”

  1. Divorce is hard, and should not be considered lightly for sure.

    What comes next – co parenting afterwards with respect is even more crucial to children.

    Absent fathers or mothers often leave the other parent in a time when the child needs them

    most; If you do separate Mothers and Fathers please keep showing up for your child.

    Lastly, How can the church be the church for those children abandoned by one of their

    parents? Divorce is not something I would want for anyone, but for multiple reasons it does. I

    pray and hope that people struggling in their marriage can reconcile but if they can not at

    least treat each other in a way that will continue to value their children.

    • These are great words! I agree 100%. Co-parenting after a divorce can be extremely difficult, but extremely crucial. Since your child can’t divorce their parents, it is important to “be adults” and figure out how to work together when it comes to them. Thanks so much for your words, and for reading.


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