Children of divorce have many feelings about the divorce and their parents. You may see or hear these problems, or your children may keep them from you, not wanting to let you know how they are really feeling.

Children often have a sense of loss during and after a divorce. They may say or show you that they are sad. Some children will cry when they think about the changes in the family. Other children may have signs of depression: trouble sleeping, eating too much or too little, restlessness, and wandering attention.

Anxiety: Most children worry that their basic needs will not be met. “Will we have enough money to live on now?” Many worry that they will be abandoned or left alone. They worry about their parents’ emotional and physical health and not being able to see their friends.

Feeling rejected: Children often feel rejected by one or both parents. This can be real or imagined. “Dad doesn’t want me.” “If Mom really loved me, she would stay with Dad.”

Loneliness: Children miss the parent who is not in the home. “I wish Mom were here.” Children feel that they get less attention from both parents during divorce—not just one parent. It may even be true if money problems cause one or both parents to work longer hours after the divorce. Or one parent may move farther away, making time with that parent hard to arrange.

Anger: Fear can lead to sadness or anger. Children can be afraid of being abandoned or just afraid of what they don’t know. They may be angry with either parent—or with both parents.

Loyalty issues: Parents may compete for their children’s affection and loyalty. One parent may take the children to amusement parks or buy them expensive toys, while the other cannot afford the money or time to match what the other parent is doing. Children walk a tightrope, afraid that fun and closeness with one parent might be a betrayal of the other parent.

Editor’s Note: This post is an edited excerpt from Debra K. Carter, PhD’s book called COPARENTING AFTER DIVORCE A GPS FOR HEALTHY KIDS

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