Divorce is not good for children. However, divorce in itself may not always be to blame for causing depression in children. The cause may sometimes be the environment in the household that led to the divorce, according to a study published in the July 2007 issue of the “Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.”
Predisposed to Depression
When children of divorce suffer from depression, it may not be solely from the divorce, but from a shared gene that predisposes children to depression, according to the “Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry” study. This study suggests that parents who are unhappy in their marriage will have children who are more prone to depression. It is not always clear if children are depressed because of the divorce or because of the atmosphere at home.
Don’t Argue in Front of the Children
What researchers learned from this study is that parents must not argue or display tension in front of their children, says Michael Goldberg, a psychology teacher at the Harvard Medical School. The level of conflict that parents display is a predictor of how well children will fare after a divorce.
Most Kids are Resilient
No parent wants to see her child depressed following her divorce. The good news is that most children will not suffer depression. Only about 25 percent of children have any sort of problem following divorce, says Dr. Robert Hughes of the Department of Human Development and Family Science at Ohio State University.
Impact of Depression
Children of divorce do experience more problems than children of intact families, according to Hughes. Girls are more likely to go through depression than boys are. Depression usually affects the ability to concentrate in school, resulting in lower grades. Poor school performance will have a long-term implication for a child’s success. Boys are more likely to act out in aggressive ways, hang out with deviant peers and get into trouble, according to Hughes. Preschool children can experience depression after a divorce, too. They display this by being less cooperative and less imaginative in play. They may show anxiety, anger and depression with other children and with adults. Children around 6-to-8 years old can experience deep grief, according to Hughes.
What You Can Do
You can help to minimize the difficulty your children are going through by letting them know that you are there for them, establishing a routine and by maintaining a conflict-free relationship with your ex. Make your child’s well-being your top priority, recommends the Help Guide website. It may take some time, but you should see some improvement in your child’s mood. If not, your child may be stuck in the depression and may need professional help. Sleep problems, difficulty concentrating, trouble at school, violent outbursts and withdrawal are all signs of depression.
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