How Divorce Affects Children of Different Ages: Elementary

elementary school aged childFor this blog series, we’ve been focusing on how divorce affects children of different ages. One of the primary concerns that we hear from our clients is how to make the divorce process as easy on their children as possible—a noble concern for any parent. For this blog, we’ll be focusing on elementary aged children.


Ages 6-11

If you’re divorcing in Portland with an elementary-aged child, they may feel a pretty extreme sense of loss upon the delivery of the news. This does not mean that your child won’t recover, but a united parental front is incredibly important to this age group of children. Upon news of your divorce, your child may vocalize that their single wish is for their parents to reunite, and they may even try and take matters into their own hands in figuring out how to make this wish come true. They may write stories in school, draw pictures or talk with others about their desire for their parents to be together, which can be heartbreaking for a parent to read, see or hear. Understand that this is just a part in processing their new reality.

As your child enters an elementary age, peer interaction also becomes a new and added factor in how they will handle the news of divorce. Peer opinions and comparisons become factors that will play a role in their processing. Your child will likely look at the lives of their peers, and whether their classmates or friends’ parents are divorced or married, to determine if it is “normal” and to potentially relate with others.

undefinedIt is possible that your child may fear abandonment when hearing about the divorce, especially the younger they are. When one parent leaves the marital household, an elementary-aged child may feel this move as personal abandonment. This fear of abandonment coupled with the obstacle of accepting a divided household could lead a child to lash out. They may lay blame on a certain parent and show favoritism, they may try and fight or rebel in school or withdraw at home, and they may show physical symptoms caused by stress, such as stomach aches or headaches.

There are ways that you can help an elementary-aged child cope with an impending divorce. First, as with all age groups, create a line of open communication between you and your child. Check in on them regularly and ask them how they’re doing in regard to the divorce. Assure them that the love you and your ex feel for them hasn’t and will never change, and reassure the ability to maintain a family atmosphere, despite the change. Present to divorce as a mutual decision between you and your ex, rather than point blame, as doing so can create conflicting anger and frustration for your child. Remember that a thriving relationship with both parents is typically what is in your child’s best interest, regardless of your personal issues with your spouse.

In addition to this, recognize that with this age, regardless of divorce, comes a new desire for privacy for most children. Respect their desire for space, as well as their desire to be with friends. In fact, encouraging them to get involved in extracurricular activities can be an excellent way of keeping their mind from dwelling on the divorce, while introducing them to friends who will bring a different form of joy and excitement to their lives.

Divorcing with children is never easy, but understanding how the divorce will impact them at their specific age can help you formulate tactics to make the process easier for them. The attorneys at Pacific Cascade Legal understand the importance of family, and especially of children and their well-being.