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How does a child’s age impact his or her divorce experience?

Apr 26, 2021 | Divorce

For West Virginia parents, the impact on shared children is often one of the biggest concerns when ending a marriage. However, the question of how children will be impacted, or what to do to support them through the change, varies a great deal depending on their age. Here is some general information on how children at different ages might experience a divorce, and how to support them through the transition in an age-appropriate way. 

  • Toddler (1.5 to 3 years old) – Although a toddler may not understand quite what is going on in terms of a divorce, he or she may recognize that changes in the home environment or patterns have taken place. This can be challenging for children of this age, who crave stability. Offering quality time and trying to maintain predictable routines (even if they are at different homes) can help with the transition for kids of this age. 
  • Preschooler (3 to 6 years old) – These children may struggle with feeling powerless in the change, resulting in feelings of uncertainty or anxiety. Books may be available to help children in this age group understand the situation, as will positive reassurances and structure from both parents. 
  • School-aged (6 to 11 years old) – Children at this age may react differently depending on their personality, experiences at home, and other factors. Common feelings include abandonment, fear of losing a parent, resentment, or a feeling that they can “save” the situation. Along with structure and positive communication, encouraging the child to build their identity through friendships and activities can help them through this time. 

In addition to a child’s age, factors such as anxiety levels, communication the child receives from outside parties, and his or her foundational experiences can all factor into the impact a divorce may have. Parents may benefit from speaking to a child psychologist to get tips on how to support the transition. Having a clear divorce agreement with custody, support, and a co-parenting plan can make it easier to collaborate on creating a smooth transition for children, even if parents themselves do not get along. A West Virginia lawyer can support these legal necessities.