A divorce can be as stressful on a couple’s children as it is on them. For a child, divorce often means a new living arrangement, conflict between their parents, not being able to see both parents each day, and a different financial reality. Divorce can be difficult for a child, and it is not uncommon for a child of divorced or divorcing parents to suffer from depression or another mental illness.
Correlation Between Divorce and Depression in Children and Adolescents
Divorce is correlated with an increased risk of depression in children and teenagers. This can lead to experimentation with drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, and other dangerous behaviors. Seventy-five percent of children and adolescents who enter treatment facilities for chemical dependency come from single-parent households. Children of divorced parents are seven times more likely than children living in intact families to suffer from depression.
Symptoms of Depression in Children
Some depression symptoms in children are the same as depression symptoms in adults. Others are unique to children and adolescents. Parents should pay close attention to any changes to their children’s behavior, noting that the following can be symptoms of depression:
Changes in the child’s appetite
Difficulty in school
Regression. This is the act of reverting to behaviors more common in younger children, such as bed wetting, tantrums, and emotional immaturity
Self-destructive behavior like self harm and engaging in violent acts
Difficulty with self control
Drastic weight changes
Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
Physical symptoms like headaches and cramping
Parents can Help their Children Work Through Depression
Parents should work with their children’s teachers and school counselors to take action when a child exhibits symptoms of depression. A parent can be proactive by telling their child’s teacher about the divorce or asking about their child’s behavior and academic progress at school. If a child does exhibit depression symptoms, parents should be willing to discuss these symptoms and help their children receive appropriate mental healthcare. Often, children and adolescents are more open to discussing their feelings with their friends than with their parents, so parents should take the proactive role by asking their children about their thoughts and feelings and by seeking recommendations for mental healthcare providers from their pediatricians.
When a child is not willing to talk to a parent about their feelings, the parent might be able to glean information from the child’s social media page or from the child’s peers’ parents.
It can be overwhelming for a parent to handle their child’s depression alongside the other difficulties of a divorce, but a parent can be a child’s most important emotional rock. Depression in a child is not a reflection on the parent – rather than feeling guilty, the parent should seek help.
South Jersey Divorce Lawyers at Kearney & Martone, P.C. Provide Legal Aid to Divorcing and Divorced ParentsIf you are a parent considering filing for divorce or one who has already begun the divorce process, work with an experienced divorce lawyer to ensure that your rights and interests are protected and promoted. Complete our online contact form or call 856-547-7733 today to schedule your initial consultation with a South Jersey divorce lawyer at Kearney & Martone, P.C. today. Our office is located in Haddon Heights, New Jersey, and we serve clients from all parts of South Jersey, including Burlington County, Camden County, and Gloucester County.