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How divorce affects children

WOMAN'S INSTINCT
By | April 7th 2012

Many minors suffer mental and physical pain, become tense and anxious or depressed while some develop stomachaches and frequent headaches, writes JOHN MUTURI

Divorce is a big blow to a couple but it is an even a bigger blow to the children. In the wake of the rising cases of divorce, this was the subject of a recent seminar where counselling psychologists gave insight into the problem and the need to cushion children against it.

One message that ran across clearly is that the degree and duration of trauma on the child depend on many things.

However, a child’s age and developmental stage are the most important factors. Pre-adolescence and early adolescence are the most affected when a marriage is deteriorating.

Crucial age

Adolescence is especially crucial because this is the age significant changes in body appearance happen. It is a time when young people attempt to decrease their emotional dependence on parents and get more involved in relationships outside the home. It is also a time when they try on new roles in an effort to establish their identity. These changes and challenges create a great deal of emotional turmoil. This is harmful when it is aggravated by the conflicts related to parents’ marital problems.

The uncertainties and excesses of preadolescence and early adolescence are usually brought under control gradually through solid relationships with parents who stand for fairness and provide effective guidance and support.

In a home disrupted by marital conflict, those stable relationships suffer. This generally interferes with the development of the children involved and creates psychological and social problems.

Mental anguish, physical pain

Many children suffer mental and physical pain. They become tense and anxious or depressed while some develop stomachaches and frequent headaches.

These children are more vulnerable to drug abuse and more likely to run away from home and indulge in promiscuous sex. Youngsters who establish a pattern of manipulation in response to marital conflict are more likely to show moral development problems later on.

Those who vacillate in allegiance or those who become too anxious to focus on tasks often develop poor self-concepts and remain over-dependent on others.

Many children of divorce have trouble developing secure, intimate relationships with their own parents and with marital partners in later years.

Long lasting effects

Studies have shown that the psychological effects of divorce are long lasting. The studies have established that for majority of the children, their parent’s divorce continue to exert major influence in their lives.

Many feel anger toward their parents and are fearful that they might repeat the unhappy experience in their own marriages. Most function adequately, but a significant number, especially girls, appear troubled and drifting.

Both boys and girls are adversely affected by divorce, but divorce appears to create more problems for younger boys.

Yet boys who maintain good relationships with their fathers seem to be less troubled. The early years of remarriage appear to be more troublesome for pre-teen girls.

Minimal stress

Considering the complexity of today’s society, divorce will be a common feature of modern relationships.

It is important therefore to try to manage the related conflict in a way that creates minimal problems for children.

With or without divorce, children should not be used as weapons in parental disagreements.

It helps to discuss what is going on and what is going to happen as fairly and as accurately as possible.

When divorce is inevitable, the harm can be minimised if all involved can be helped to view it as a move in the best interest of the whole family.

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