Confusion, stress and other short-term legacies of divorce on kids



Several years ago I had a single mom show up at my house late one evening. She had left the husband that day, taken the kids and a few belongings and had checked into a local hotel.  The precious 4th grade little girl looked bewildered. When I asked her what she thought about what was happening she said,

“I am sooo confused. Somebody please explain what is happening to me. This is too stressful!”

She was scared of staying at a hotel and wanted to go  home. She wondered if her dad was okay an what was going to happen to her and her baby brother.

Children of divorce suffer many legacies. Some children experience effects of these legacies at the time of the separation or divorce. While other children seem to breeze through the divorce of their parents with no lasting impact at the time the divorce occurs, many will find themselves wrestling with various consequences later on in life and throughout their adult years.

Several researchers divide the legacies of divorce into two different time frames. Short-term legacy is the term used to define the consequences that affect the child at the time the divorce occurs and immediately following. Long-term legacy represents those consequences that impact the child of divorce later on in their teen or adult years.

Not all children of divorce will personally experience every short-term or long-term legacy. Much depends on

  • The child’s support system
  • The child’s personality
  • The relationship with both parents
  • How the child is told about the divorce
  • How the parents experience the divorce individually
  • The relationship, actions and attitudes of the parents after the divorce occurs

There are a number of short-term legacy effects that you might see in children of divorce.

  • Intense stress
  • Overwhelming emotions
  • Constant fear about safety
  • Difficulty completing task
  • Academic problems
  • Behavior problems
  • Regression to previous and younger habit
  • Feeling of powerlessness
  • Total confusion

Examples of how short-term legacy effects impacts daily life

The issue of feeling safe is a big component that affects many areas of the child’s life. In order to feel safe, children must be able to trust in someone or 
something. In order to trust someone, there has to be a sense of reliance and dependence. Many children of divorce feel they have lost the sense of trust, or reliance and dependence, so they have safety issues.

Children begin to fear the dark. They may let their imaginations run wild and think someone is going to break into the home and harm them. Some children will feel unsafe simply because there is now only one parent in the home that used to have two-parents providing for, and taking care of them. Other children that once trusted God will wonder if God has deserted them too. For these children their entire world feels unsafe.

Difficulty completing tasks
 is because of the stress and the expanse of emotions that they are experiencing. They can’t focus on an individual task. Dealing with all of their new emotions takes energy. Adding a new task to the mix just puts them under too much pressure. Many times because the adults are not taking time to explain what is going on, children are left in a state of confusion. Things might have appeared to be find one day and the next day someone is moving out of the house.

What short-term legacies have you observed in children?


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2 thoughts on “Confusion, stress and other short-term legacies of divorce on kids

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