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Effects of Divorce in Preschoolers

How Will My Divorce Affect My Infant or Preschooler?


Divorce is a big change for preschoolers. You will likely notice some of the following behaviors during this time of transition. Remember, though, that you can help your child adjust by modeling the behavior you want to see. Be calm and reassuring, and don’t forget to take care of yourself through this process, as well. Your preschooler needs you!

Related: Effects of Divorce in Children | Infants/Toddlers | K-6 Children | Tweens/Teens

Effects of Divorce in Preschoolers:

  • Has no concept of what divorce means
  • Imagines that the divorce isn’t real
  • Resists being apart from one or both parents
  • Experiences renewed separation anxiety
  • Displays regression (appearing to have unlearned skills he or she previously mastered)
  • Tries to control what’s happening in order to restore familiarity
  • May be fearful in general, even about things that are not related to the divorce
  • May experience nightmares or night terrors

Action Steps for Parents of Preschoolers:

  • Offer stability and a predictable routine
  • Offer reassuring words
  • Smile, cuddle, and play together
  • Spend quality time with your child
  • Read together
  • Maintain communication with the non-resident parent
  • Maintain a consistent schedule of parenting time with each parent
  • Use a calendar to help your preschooler anticipate visits with the non-resident parent
  • Allow your child to express his or her feelings
  • Make an intentional effort to take care of yourself, too

Block, Jocelyn, M.A., et al. "Children and Divorce: Helping Your Kids Cope With the Effects of Separation and Divorce." Helpguide.org., Apr. 2010. Web. 3 Dec. 2010. <http://helpguide.org/mental/children_divorce.htm>.

Wilson, Elaine, Brenda Sheik, and Tammy Fowler. Co-Parenting. Stillwater, Oklahoma: Oklahoma State University. PDF file.

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