It is normal for children to be upset when they find out their parents are getting a divorce. Though they may have sensed for some time that things between their parents were not right, it still can be a shock to learn that the family will not be living under one roof anymore.
In many children, bouts of sadness eventually fade as they adjust to their new situation. But for others, the hurt can deepen and turn into depression, according to an educator with the University of Minnesota Extension’s Center for Family Development.
Concerned parents should allow their children to work through their feelings about the divorce, but also be on the lookout for signs of something deeper that would require professional help, such as a child psychologist or play therapist.
It can be tricky to tell if a child is depressed. One possible sign is a child who seems to be emotionally flat, withdrawn, or angry. Letting the child’s teacher and school counselor know about the divorce can help those professionals keep an eye out for signs of unusual behavior.
Sometimes, it can just take a sense from a medical professional that the child needs help. One pediatrician said she can tell just from being in the room with a depressed child that he or she needs professional care to help cope with his or her parents’ divorce.
No responsible parent wants to hurt their kids, but staying in an unhappy or abusive marriage “for the children” is generally doing them no favors. With the necessary support, most children will move on from the trauma and hopefully thrive.