The Emotional Impact of Divorce in Children During COVID-19

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Divorced families are facing unique challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic due to many factors, including the economic fallout, as close to 40 million Americans filed for unemployment claims since March. This may have consequences regarding parenting schedules due to job losses and may cause financial issues that can affect child support payments. In a separated family, parents may have different opinions on the stay-at-home orders and can find themselves at odds over how to handle parental visitations during this time. The pandemic is creating new issues for divorced parents, and they’ll have to come together if they want to make it work for the sake of the children’s well-being.

Research has shown that parental separation or divorce can have a negative impact on children and teenagers, and can lead to mental health issues, behavior issues and could affect them academically. Some children may feel confused, anxious, frustrated, and scared. Others may blame one parent for the separation, or hold resentment for both parents. Divorce can also cause some children and adolescents to act out and others may become quiet and withdrawn.

A study conducted in 2018 suggests that children whose parents went through a divorce showed signs of exhibiting less self-control and engaging in unhealthy relationships with peers. Although you cannot control your child’s reaction to a divorce, you can reduce conflict with your former spouse, act as a consistent and nurturing parent and make sure both you and your ex remain involved with supporting your children, regardless of how they are reacting towards the divorce.

The effect of divorce on children has always been a concern but now in the wake of the current pandemic, there’s a heightened awareness and concern for their wellbeing. The current health crisis is making it more difficult for children to transition between homes. Social distancing is also another issue to factor in since divorced parents are having to figure out ways for their kids to be able to spend time with the other parent. Parents should try and continue to follow their parenting schedule, and it is especially important if they have a court-ordered parenting plan. The pandemic has not changed the laws relating to child custody, and until it is modified or terminated, the court order continues and payments will still be due.

In my experience, if the divorced parents have a good co-parenting relationship, they may be able to come to an agreement in terms of understanding the situation and being accepting of any changes in the schedule. In order to successfully co-parent during this health crisis, it’s important to have open communication and try to come up with more solutions, such as finding a way to virtually set up contact through video conferences with the other parent so the child doesn’t lose valuable bonding time. It can be difficult not to worry about how the sharing of parenting time with your former spouse during the pandemic will affect your children. My advice to parents dealing with this situation is to remember that this crisis is affecting children just as much as it’s affecting you, and as a parent, it is your job to make it easier on the children by learning how to be flexible and adapt to the changes to be able to co-parent your children during this time and reduce animosity and conflict between you and your former spouse.

by Debra Schoenberg

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