Psychological Effects of Divorce on the Family


There is no doubt that separation and divorce are common occurrences in modern society. Nearly everyone is touched by divorce at some point in their lives, either in their own life or a loved one, but few people realize the sometimes overwhelming psychological and emotional impact caused by the end of a relationship or divorce. At Wisselman, Harounian & Associates, we want to help families address the psychological implications of divorce so they can prepare themselves and their loved ones for this emotional experience.

Divorce Causes Grief

From the youngest child to the oldest spouse, those going through divorce will undoubtedly face a sense of grief and loss. For some, grief stems from the loss of relationship or separation from a spouse or children, for others, it comes from the realization that things will not remain the same. Regardless of the cause, it’s crucial to allow all family members to process their sadness in their own way and at their own pace. Many parents try to protect their children from depression and sadness or to rush through it, but glossing over emotional pain sometimes makes it worse; therefore, allow yourself and your loved ones to grieve and heal.  If the sad feelings don’t dissipate (or even get worse over time), seek professional help.

Divorce Causes Anxiety

Anxiety and fear of the unknown are commonly experienced during divorce. Individuals and families are often dealing with financial and legal crises. There are disruptions and changes to the family schedule and sometimes increased expenses of two households.  Anxiety can be caused by feeling a lack of control, or a fear of the unknown future. 

Common Causes of Anxiety during Divorce

For adults:

  • Did I cause the problems myself?
  • Is this the right decision in my life?
  • Will I be able to afford living apart?
  • Will I find a better partner?
  • How will this impact my kids?
  • What’s going to happen with my house after the divorce?

For children:

  • Did I cause my parents’ divorce?
  • Do my parents love me?
  • Will I have to change schools or move from my house?
  • I don’t understand why my parents divorced.
  • Will I lose time with my parents?

The best way to combat divorce-related anxiety is to be prepared for the potential fallout from the changes.  Seek out a therapist or counselor for help.  Try to work out parenting schedules with your ex to minimize disruption to your children.  Try to maintain consistency with your children’s activities, holidays and friends. Giving children the basic facts (in an age-appropriate manner) can help them fight their anxiety.  Do not discuss adult issues regarding finances, or denigrate the other parent. Making a “divorce plan” with your attorney can help you be more prepared with your situation both during and after the process. In short, knowledge and preparation is the best defense against anxiety!

Anger and Secondary Emotions

Anger can typically develop during and after the course of divorce, but there are ways to calm oneself and others during this emotional toll. It’s crucial to recognize that anger is usually a “secondary emotion,” triggered by other feelings. For example, when people are scared or vulnerable, their fear can quickly turn into anger.  Therefore, if you feel yourself getting angry (or if you see a family member getting angry), it is important to pause and try to identify the underlying cause of this feeling.

Liberation and Relief

In situations where a spouse and children have undergone periods of domestic abuse/neglect, or addiction, the divorce may actually help produce freeing feelings of relief and liberation.  Being removed from an environment of hostility can create a positive momentum and feeling of control in one’s life.  

We Can Help

Finding the right attorney can have huge implications on the psychological impact of your divorce. At Wisselman, Harounian & Associates, we believe caring and compassionate representation is a key aspect of long-term emotional wellness for yourself and your family.

We’d love to talk to you about your case, call (516) 773-8300 now for a free consultation!

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