Children are affected by transitioning family dynamics

January 16, 2020

Requests for dissolution of marriage tend to increase after the holidays. Reasons for the delay vary by couple. One or both partners may be hopeful for a reconciliation, or couples might stay together so the family can enjoy one more holiday together. This is especially true if children are part of the equation, as they are affected by transitioning family dynamics in many ways.

Here, we will discuss the reasons why children might act or feel a certain way when the household is disrupted with a significant change, like divorce. We will also offer suggestions for helping your child or adolescent through this emotionally challenging course.


Children take comfort in routine. When their days involve a level of predictability, young ones are relaxed and happy. Children need time to process new things, and a parental split is a big shift that can disrupt any pattern of “normalcy.”

In a stressful situation such as this, your child may:

    • Experience anxiety, moodiness, or decreased self-esteem due to feelings of guilt
    • Exhibit behavioral issues like lying, talking back, or getting in trouble at school
    • Have problems eating, sleeping, or concentrating on academics
    • Seek attention by complaining of unsubstantiated pains or unrealistic fears
    • Be emotionally sensitive or display anger toward parents, friends, or themselves
    • Misplace blame and wonder if he or she has done something wrong

The effects of a transitioning family will be different from one child to the next, even among those in the same household. Some may better understand divorce and naturally adjust to the changes. Others will struggle and need more time and guidance.


Talking about the divorce is important so your child feels both involved and heard. Studies show that communication, honesty, family time, and support from friends will help children implement healthy ways to adjust.

You can do many things to help your child through the changes of divorce. For example:

  • Explain to your child in an honest but age-appropriate way why you are getting a divorce. Keep your words simple.
  • Remind your child that while parents may no longer get along, the bond between a parent and child remains strong. Strengthen that connection with comforting hugs or spend time together by helping with homework or making a meal.
  • Tell your child “I love you.” Hearing those words sends a powerful message and reaffirms the sentiment.
  • Discuss potential alterations to routine or circumstances. Let your child know that some things will stay the same but that others may be different, and that you will deal with those things together. If children know what to expect, they are often better equipped to handle change.

Divorce is complicated and stressful for adults, but the transitioning family dynamics are also difficult for children. Being present and involved in your child’s life can help him or her adjust. If you need professional assistance, contact Laurie Grengs Counseling. We offer Child and Adolescent Therapy to deal with stressful situations and guide your youngster toward positive, healthy change.

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