How does divorce affect children of different ages?

While divorce tends to affect the entire family, few are more likely to feel its impact than your children. Today’s Parent reports that the effects of a divorce on children may depend on their age and ability to grasp the accompanying emotions and that younger children may not always see the bigger picture regarding the future.

If you have children of different ages living in your home, talking to each child about your divorce on levels they can understand may help ease the transition.


Your toddler is unlikely to grasp the complexities of divorce or even understand the concept. Most of his or her reaction to the situation may come across in actions and expressions of emotion. If your ex-spouse moves out and your toddler usually sees both parents every day, he or she may experience a shift in emotions, including:

  • Increased or sudden insecurity
  • Increased clinginess with the custodial parent
  • Changes in sleep patterns

You can reassure your toddler during a divorce by giving that child extra attention and keeping their daily schedule as unchanged as possible.

Elementary school-aged children

Kids who attend kindergarten up to sixth grade are more likely to understand the concept of divorce. They may visit the homes of friends with divorced parents or hear about it at school. Your school-aged kids may blame themselves for the divorce, so it is important that you encourage them to discuss their feelings and create an open dialog within the family.


Because teens experience such diverse emotional and hormonal changes during this time, they are likely to react to your divorce with anger and the desire to rebel against the parent who left or initiated the divorce. Your teens may also try to push you away during this time to protect their own emotions, but creating opportunities for discussion may help them cope.

You can also protect a child of any age from the ramifications of divorce by protecting them from conflict. Avoid arguing in front of them and offer them reassurance that you love them, even if your marriage is ending.


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