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Children and Divorce: Reactions Differ By Age

Posted on in Divorce

Naperville divorce and family law attorneyWhen a couple goes through divorce, the whole family is affected. Often, there are children involved in divorces, and because they are still developing physically and emotionally, they can be strongly affected by a divorce. While not every child is the same, and each child will react differently, there are some general tendencies that happen in children of specific age groups. Understanding how your child may react to the news of a divorce can help you comfort them through this tough time.


Even though infants are not completely aware of the situation, they do notice and react to the increased tension that a divorce can bring into a household. A stressed infant can exhibit symptoms such as:

  • Upset stomach
  • Irregular eating habits
  • Loss of appetite

Sometimes, an infant can become nervous, especially around new people, if the parents quarrel often. The child may also be subject to frequent tantrums and outbursts, and his or her emotional development may not advance at the normal rate.


Because a toddler’s main bond at this age is with their parents, any change can be difficult for them to adjust to and understand. At this age, toddlers may feel responsible for the breakup. Parents need to talk about the divorce with the child to help them understand that they are not at fault. Toddlers experiencing a divorce can show traits such as:

  • Excessive crying
  • Need for attention
  • Experiencing anger and not understanding it
  • Irregular sleep habits

It is important for toddlers to have a routine that is as normal as possible and for parents to spend extra time with them and be more nurturing than usual.


When children are about three to five years old, their cognitive development is increased, meaning they are more aware of situations in the home. Preschoolers often feel responsible for the divorce of their parents, but parents have to be open about the separation. Most times, if a child sees a parent adjusting well to the divorce, the child will follow suit. Normal reactions that preschoolers might have to a divorce include:

  • Nightmares
  • Unpleasant thoughts
  • Anger suppression
  • Feelings of uncertainty

Parents can help their children cope with a divorce by talking with their child and setting aside a special time for them every day.

School-Aged Children

Children who are aged six to 11 years can feel extreme loss when their parents divorce. Sometimes, children can feel like a divorce between their parents is also a divorce from them, but that can be remedied with reassurance from their parents. Some common reactions from children in this age group are:

  • Feelings of rejection
  • Feeling abandoned and alone
  • Believing their parents are getting back together

Parents can help their school-aged children cope with divorce by encouraging them to talk about their emotions and reassuring them of their safety and security.


Adolescent children are in the process of becoming more abstract and critical thinkers, and they are usually more aware of what is going on in their parent’s lives. When parents of adolescent children separate, it often hurts the child emotionally. Teens can exhibit reactions such as:

  • Unpredictable behavior
  • Feelings of hatred or anger
  • Financial worries
  • Trying to take advantage of both parents

Parents can help their adolescent children adjust to a divorce by communicating with them as much as possible. 

Seek Help From a DuPage County Divorce Attorney

Navigating divorce can be difficult both legally and emotionally, but an uncomplicated divorce process can be beneficial to both you and your children. With the help of a Wheaton divorce lawyer, you can ensure that your divorce is settled as smoothly as possible. Contact Anderson & Associates, P.C. at 630-653-9400 to schedule a free consultation.




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