A parent’s divorce has the potential to be a significant factor in a child’s life and worldview, but they shouldn’t be defined solely by it. Different circumstances will influence a child in different ways, and different children will react to and be influenced by those circumstances in their own way.
Here are some factors to consider when writing a child or teen with divorced parents:
- Age of the child when the divorce happened. Does the child remember their parents together? Was the child old enough to understand what was going on? Was the child’s personality already developed?
- Custody agreement. In other words, how is the child’s time split between their two separated parents. Did the child lose a parental figure? Was the child forced to choose between their parents? Was the child forced to live with the parent they didn’t want to live with?
- Loss of a parent from their day-to-day lives. In the event that one parent manages to claim sole custody over the child, how does this impact the child’s upbringing? If a single father looks after a daughter, will there be issues when puberty rolls around, and how will this girl’s personality develop without a constant female parental figure and vice versa.
- Relationship with parents before the divorce. Was there a parent that the child was closer to and would have preferred to stay with permanently? Did one parent demand sole custody and how did the child feel about it? Does the child end up with the parent that they preferred and if not, do they feel wronged or manipulated by the other parent?
- Relationship with parent after the divorce. How does the child react to changes imposed upon them by their parent(s) as a result of the divorce? If a parent makes a drastic change, like moving far away or starting a new relationship, how does the child feel about that? Does the child even want to be living with that parent?
- Circumstances/cause of the divorce. We see a lot on TV (legal dramas, I’m looking at you) one person demanding a divorce from their cheating partner, and while that is a reason for a split, others do exist. Not every reason for divorce is so black and white, where one partner is solely to blame. A couple could have married out of obligation and not love, or have fallen out of love and decided to part ways to pursue ‘true love.’ A couple could’ve been happy first, but slowly discovered that values and aspirations were too different and start to argue constantly over them. This could impact on how the child sees future relationships, or if they are forced to view their parents in a new light.
- Relationship between parents after divorce. Do the parents still argue at every chance they get? Does one parent feel cheated by the other in the divorce process? Do they remain remains or even grudgingly get along for the sake of the child? Does one parent badmouth the other to the child? If they parents do not get along, the child may feel a considerable amount of stress and like they are being pressured to pick a side.
- Preconceived illusions of family and upbringing. How was the child raised, and what doctrines regarding family and divorce were they exposed to? Did the child always know that their family was not a happy one (parents argued openly in front of the child etc.) or did the parents attempt to keep up the image of a happy family, or even stay together for the sake of the child? For example, how would a child who thought they had the perfect family feel if at 14, their parents told them that they were getting a divorce and only stayed together and kept up the act until the child was old enough to understand? Would this impact on their world view?
- How the was child treated by their society. In the social circles, society and religion of that family, how is divorce viewed? Will the family be shunned? Do the neighbours tell their children not to be friends with the child anymore? Are there any preconceived notions towards divorcees (e.g. the wife was unable to keep her husband happy, the husband must have been unable to support the family, the divorce shouldn’t have happened because it’s forbidden by the dominant religion in that society).
- Money. Typically, the shared income in that family drops and the child is now part of a poorer, and smaller family. How does the child adjust to a possible change in lifestyle?
Something important to remember is that divorce is not always a wholly bad thing. Sometimes, divorce is the best option and allows members of a family to move on and live emotionally and mentally healthier lives.
Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist, and this is not a professional opinion. I am speaking from my own experiences, and also the experiences of people I know. I don’t speak for everyone with divorced parents, so if any of our followers want to chip in, please feel free to!