According to the CDC, there were at least 630,000 divorces and annulments in 2020. Whether you are going through a divorce yourself, you were a child with parents that divorced, or you have loved ones splitting up, you will experience divorce to some extent in your lifetime.
You are breaking up your life, divvying up your assets, determining who gets the family pets, and figuring out where your children will live, go to school, and what the visitation schedule will be. It’s incredibly stressful. Your stress impacts not only you but also your children and the mental wellness of everyone involved. It’s essential to save your mental health and your children’s even if your marriage is over.
Is Divorce Depression Real?
The street term is divorce depression, but it’s situational depression or an adjustment disorder. It will look similar to depression, but it doesn’t always need medical intervention. You may have one or all of these symptoms:
- Arguments or fighting outside of your typical behavior
- Avoidance of social commitments, family, or friends
- Procrastinating or ignoring responsibilities
- Difficulty focusing on tasks
- Poor work performance
Reducing Impact on Your Children
Divorce can disrupt your children’s developmental sequence, especially when it comes to their mental and emotional wellness. Like adults going through a divorce, they can be more prone to anxiety, depression, irritability, and mood swings. They can experience disillusionment and feelings of hopelessness. However, you can take these steps to mitigate the risks:
1. Maintain Healthy Communication
Facilitating active communication with your children is crucial before and throughout the breakup. Encourage them to share their feelings and share yours as well. Reassure them of any concerns they bring up, but be cautious about placing concerns in their heads that they haven’t voiced. For example, letting them know the divorce isn’t their fault sounds reassuring, but they may not have thought of that until you brought it up.
As much as possible, strive for healthy communication with your ex; you are co-parents now, and it will be much better for your children if you can communicate with each other.
2. Provide Emotional Support
Children are highly attuned to their parents feelings and behaviors and will get worried when they sense stress. Having an emotional support system in place can help them feel secure and reduce this adverse effect even when everything is changing around them.
3. Set Appropriate Expectations
Don’t lie about the upcoming changes from the divorce. Your children will respond better to the change if they have time to prepare. For a time it may be appropriate to avoid family get-togethers with your ex and children. This can send mixed messages and confuse your children as they adjust to their new normal.
4. Avoid Custody Disputes If Possible
Establish a co-parenting plan with your ex that is best for your children. It will give the children clear boundaries for when they see each of you and prevent emotional distress from legal battles.
5. Don’t Put Your Kids In The Middle
Speak directly and privately to your ex about concerns you may have. When speaking with your children, try not to bring up your ex unless necessary. Any negative comments about your ex will cause emotional distress and can lead to low self-esteem in your kids. Also, if you try to pry about your ex’s relationships or life, it can make your children lose confidence in you.
Symptoms of Depression
Signs your children may be depressed are similar to adults, but they can be harder to identify.
|Signs in Adults||How They Manifest in Children|
|Loss of Appetite||They may not be hungry or be ravenous, so you will see changes in weight.|
|Trouble Sleeping||They may be lethargic during the day or extremely grumpy.|
|Difficulty Concentrating||They might have a drop in grades or their teacher may raise concerns about their class participation. They may be indecisive and want you to make decisions for them.|
|Loss of Enjoyment in Your Hobbies||They may get into arguments with their friends or instructors at practice or not want to attend their sports games.|
|Feelings of hopelessness, sadness, or thoughts of self-harm||These can be hard to detect in your child. They may start having less confidence in themselves. They can withdraw and stop communicating with you. They may start engaging in attention-seeking or risky behavior.|
If you have taken all the steps to mitigate the impact of your divorce, and they are still exhibiting signs of a mental health crisis or their behavior deteriorates, seek professional advice.
If You Have Pre-Existing Depression
Unfortunately, the risk of divorce doubles if either of you has mental distress like clinical depression or anxiety. The risk of divorce is worse if you both suffer from mental health problems, and you are less likely to get divorced if neither of you suffers. If your depression is no longer in remission, getting help as soon as possible is crucial.
Getting Extra Help
Even if you or your child started with situational depression, it can shift to clinical depression, requiring medical help. This is more likely to occur if pre-existing depression or another mental health condition exists. Your doctor may suggest starting an antidepressant, increasing your current dosage, or trying alternative treatments. Search for “TMS for depression near me” to see some providers in your area offering a non-invasive treatment.
Hopefully, continuing to socialize, eating right, and exercising, along with a bit of extra support from your loved ones, will be enough to avoid or minimize your divorce depression. Watch for signs in you and your children that clinical depression treatment is needed. Typically, this would mean having multiple symptoms that remain present for more than two weeks, or you are concerned about safety. Divorce can be challenging, but with the right help, you can lead a happy fulfilling life.