Skip to main content
Kids   »   How Divorce Works

How Divorce Works

When parents get divorced, life can feel a bit upside down for a while. As a child, it can be comforting to know that there are different steps that families go through. It can be a tough period if you need to move and haven’t yet adjusted to all the changes. But things usually start feeling easier and better for many as time goes on! It can be reassuring to focus on this if you’re feeling sad about all the changes in the family, something that’s common for many children when parents get divorced.

Here’s more about the “steps” in a divorce.

1. Before Parents Announce the Divorce

The first phase is the semi- or full-sour mood that often exists between parents before they decide to divorce. When their love ends, it’s usually noticeable because they aren’t as happy and relaxed as usual. But as a child, you might not have noticed anything.

It’s Clear with Some Parents

You hear them arguing in the evenings and slamming doors. Some children have trouble sleeping and worry that their parents will get divorced. It’s almost always tough for children when parents argue. Even babies get stressed when parents argue!

Parents who argue a lot or often feel angry with each other may decide to divorce just to reduce the arguments. When they live apart, they can more easily avoid arguments. They often feel they need to shield a child from the arguments but can’t stop arguing as long as they live together.

When parents decide to divorce and stop arguing, the divorce can actually be important for the children (even if it doesn’t feel that way when you’re in the middle of it). Because things often become calmer and better for both children and parents after some time.

With Some Parents, Nothing’s Noticed

With other parents, nothing is noticed until they announce they’re getting divorced. As a child, you might go around thinking everything is just as usual and almost get a shock when they tell you. It can be scary to find out that something has been going on that you didn’t notice. Maybe you wonder if there are other terrible things happening that you’re unaware of. But it can also be a sign that you’ve been living your life just as you should! Children need to be completely absorbed in their own lives with school, friends, and interests.

When you haven’t noticed that parents have been struggling, divorce usually isn’t about them being particularly angry with each other. Instead, it’s more about not enjoying each other’s company and not feeling satisfied. They think that life and the family will be even better when they live in two homes.

2. The Move – Where Will Everyone Live?

The next phase is when parents have found separate places to live. Now they need to agree on how the family will function. When will you live with whom and how often will you move? In some families, it’s obvious, like every other week, for example. Others disagree about when to live with them. As a child, you have the right to say how you want to live. Parents must listen to you, but they also make the decisions.

Parents should decide what’s best for a child. But they also need to listen to what a child wants. Often, it turns out well even if it’s not exactly what you wanted. You can also try things out.

It’s impossible to decide something that will apply forever. You don’t know what you’ll like until you’ve tried it.

The Move = the Toughest Step for Children in a Divorce

This usually is the toughest period. Parents often focus on everything that needs to be done and feel guilty about the situation. That’s a shame because children really need support and to know how things will turn out. It can be tough to have to change schools or move away from friends. Perhaps you also need to start sharing a room in the new home and live in a slightly less nice house or apartment.

Many children also don’t like moving and living every other week at first. It can be hard to know where your things are, and you might miss the parent you don’t live with. Maybe you feel like life has become more complicated and worse overall. You might also worry about how your parents are actually feeling.

During this phase, it means a lot if parents make an effort for you to have the best possible experience. It’s easier to cope with moving if they help you wash, pack, and carry your things. Routines are usually good during this phase. Some families have the same favorite meal on the first night when you arrive and do something cozy at the end of the week, the last day before you move. It’s also important for parents to help you get to school, friends, and activities when you have a longer journey or need to find your way from a new place.

If there has been a lot of arguing and chaos at home, this period can feel tough but also calmer if the arguments and bickering between parents stop. Because researchers have seen that ongoing parental arguments are the toughest for children, regardless of whether parents live together or not.

A New Everyday Life Once Things Calm Down

After living in your new homes for a few months after the divorce, it usually starts feeling like a new everyday life. Now it’s especially important for the everyday life to be calm and regular. Because now you need to rest a bit after all the changes and know what the deal is in life. Sometimes feelings of sadness or anger come up now that things have calmed down. It might be because you’ve landed and only now have time to feel. For those who were very angry and sad during the divorce itself, those feelings might instead diminish and disappear.

Some families need to change their schedules for living arrangements to find a rhythm they like. But for most people, the most important thing is that life becomes calm and starts feeling normal again. Only then can you focus your energy on things you used to care about before the divorce. Ideally, you’ve also gained a sense of being someone who can handle difficult things. That you can have a tough time but then move on and feel good again.

We hope that you, as a child, find the text above “How Divorce Works” helpful! If you have questions or concerns, you can email us in the team at ❤️

Elisabeth Scholander