How Divorce Impacts Kids of All Ages 5-8, 9-12

With divorce being on the rise, it is imperative that parents educate themselves on how to get their children thru it with the least amount of psychological damage as possible. That is why we are devoting an entire week on educating you about how to help your children. If you haven't read Tamara and Teri's blogs yet, take a moment to do so. They are very helpful. Today I will discuss ages 5-12. Ages 5-8 Characteristics:

  • They are developing peer relationships
  • Moral development progresses

Separations Issues:

  • Kids at this age may feel responsible for the separation
  • They may have fantasies of parents getting back together
  • They will long for the absent parent and fear abandonment of both parents.

Signs of Distress:

  • Intensified feelings of abandonment and rejection
  • Changes in appetite and sleeping
  • Behavioral problems (that were not already present)
  • Conflicts with loyalty between parents
  • They may try to take on the role of the departing parent


  • Teach coping strategies- if you don't know of any, seek professional help
  • Give opportunities to express their feelings
  • Reassure them that they are not responsible for the separation
  • Give them permission to love both parents
  • Participate in activities outside of the home to detach from parental problems
  • Let them spend as much time as possible with each parent.

Ages 9-12


  • Increased awareness of self
  • Trying to fit in with peers

Separation issues

  • Anger at parents for the separation
  • May feel responsible for the separation
  • They will most likely blame the parent they think caused the separation and take sides against them
  • May think that one parent is all good and the other is all bad

Signs of Distress:

  • Intense anger
  • Physical complaints
  • They may become overactive to avoid home and thinking about the separation
  • They may feel ashamed about the separations and feel different from their peers


  • Allow opportunities to express anger
  • Present coping skills (or find a therapist to help develop them)
  • Reassure them that they are not responsible for the separation
  • Give them permission to love both parents
  • Participation in extracurricular activities to detach from parent problems
  • They will benefit from spending as much time as possible with each parent

Wow- that's a lot to think about, isn't it? It's so important though. If you are experiencing any of the signs of distress with your children, it would be very helpful to get them into a qualified professional. There is so much prevention you can do during a divorce. It's just very difficult to see when you are in the thick of it.

Tomorrow Joleen will share book recommendations as well as discussing ages 13-18. Thank you for reading!

Adapted from Impact of Divorce on Children at Different Developmental Stages, Johnston & Roseby, 1997: Solomon, 2005

Written by Natalie Chandler

Natalie Chandler, MA, LMHC is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Natalie enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, and couples counseling.  We also specialize in family counseling, child, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Westfield, and Zionsville.