Question of the week: How long does it take a child to recover from the divorce of their parents?


52086622 - sad 7 years boy child looking out the window. rainy day

The answer to this question can get complicated. Many divorcing parents think their children will get over the divorce fairly quickly. But what parents need to realize is while the adult life might go on and they will find a new partner, the children will never find another parent. The two parents will always be their parents.

Most research shows that for adults it takes most people more than two years to regain their equilibrium and move on with their lives after the divorce.

There are a lot of variables that come into play when answering this question about how long it takes kids to recover from the divorce.

A few of the variables for kids recovering their parent’s divorce

  • Developmental age
  • Chronological age of child at the time of the divorce
  • Parents – are they cooperative, warring, indifferent?
  • Support system around the divorcing family
  • Support system available for the children
  • Visitation schedules
  • The introduction of a parent’s new love

One kid’s story

Some children are able to move forward within a few years while other children will take up to ten years to find a sense of normalcy. For my own son it did take the full ten-year time span for him to realize his dad and I would never get back together. He was in second grade when his dad left. When he was getting ready to enter his senior year of high school he came to me one day and said, “I finally realized that dad is never coming back home again. You guys will never get back together will you?”

What one researcher says

Judith Wallerstein, who studied children of divorce for twenty-five years, says, “Children who were able to draw support from school, sports team, parents, stepparents, grandparent, teacher or their own inner strengths, interests, and talents did better than those who could not muster such resources.” (The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, a 25 Year Landmark Study, page299

Some adult children of divorce will tell you they have never recovered from the divorce of their parents. “We have learned that five and even ten years after divorce, some children and adolescents refuse to accept the divorce as a permanent state of affairs. They continue to hope, consciously or unconsciously, that the marriage will be restored, finding omens of reconciliation even in a harmless handshake or a simple friendly nod.”  (Second Changes,  Judith Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee page 293, Ticknor & Fields, New York)

Recovering from divorce takes a long time

From all my research and observations a decent time frame for children to be healed and find a true sense of normalcy would be ten years. It will take most of their growing up years to

  • Accept the concept of divorce and their parents no longer living as one unit
  • Figure out where they belong
  • Process their own loneliness
  • Identify the flood of emotions they will feel during the divorce
  • Accept the fact that one or both parents will bring a new love into the picture

Keep in mind that during the ten years they are growing up themselves. They still have to go to school; make friends; develop talents and skills and learn life living skills during this time. Ten years is really a fairly short time in one’s life to accept and process the devastation of the original birth family.


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6 thoughts on “Question of the week: How long does it take a child to recover from the divorce of their parents?

  1. What about older children? My daughters were 20 (and in college 800 miles from home) and 16 when their mother left and took them with her. What I understand now, eight years out, is that their mother accomplished their estrangement through deft use of the techniques of parental alienation. I have had no contact for the past seven years.

    • Jay, every situation is different. Sounds like your kids have extenuating circumstances. I can’t answer your question but I’d encourage you to keep praying for your children. Also you might read some of Judith Wallerstein’s books. Her book that I mentioned, “The Unexpectedly Legacy” is an excellent resource. I’m sorry about your situation. If you have their addresses, I’d encourage you to send cards on their birthdays, Christmas and other special days. Don’t expect anything in return. Just reach out and pray that someday they will choose to contact you.

  2. Pingback: How Long Does it Take for a Child to Recover From the Divorce of Their Parents? - A Father's Walk

    • Lily, a lot depends on your child’s personality and how you parent them. I hesitate to say “good points” and “benefits” but I prefer to say kids can grow from the experience of their parents divorcing. Kids can learn to be independent; how to set goals for themselves; how to have empathy for others who are hurting; how NOT to treat someone. The list is endless of the things kids can learn from the divorce. Kids can even learn how to express their feelings appropriately so they don’t hurt others when upset. There are many adults walking around today who don’t know what they are feeling or how to express those feelings appropriately. While I never wanted a divorce and fought it all the way, my kids are doing well as adults. They both have successful careers, are married and are compassionate parents. I hope this encourages you. Linda

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