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The William Alanson White Institute Clinical Services
Established in 1948
20 West 74th Street, NY, NY 10023
Questions? Please call: (212) 873-7070
As the divorce rate in the United States now fluctuates between 40 and 50 percent, increasing attention has been paid to the effects it has on children. Extensive research has demonstrated that children of divorce are likely to experience more difficulties in school, more behavior problems, lower self-esteem, more trouble getting along with peers and more difficulties in subsequent relationships.
Despite these alarming statistics, the fact remains that many children make excellent adjustments post-divorce and it is clear that the way parents navigate the divorce process has a large impact on the ultimate success of their offspring. Research shows that less that 20% of children report that both parents sat down to tell them about the separation and only 5% say they were given an explanation and an opportunity to ask questions. The factors that most contribute to a child’s adjustment difficulties are: exposure to parental conflict, increased life stress and the loss or diminution of contact with a parent. A difficult divorce process can leave a child feeling out of control – his/her sense of the world as an intact safe place can be shattered. The resulting uncertainty can give rise to anxieties that can interfere with normal development.
Given what we know about how children process experience, much can be done to mitigate the negative effects of divorce. Parents need to explain the changes in the family in terms a child can understand – a five year old has very different capacities than a teenager. Most importantly, children need to be shielded from the toxic conflicts that often accompany separation and its aftermath. They need to know that they can love both parents without being disloyal to either. Parents need to put their children’s needs first, to try to anticipate how the upcoming changes are likely to be experienced by their offspring and to be accepting of the variety of reactions their children might have. Children, who tend to be self-referential, may need to be reassured that they were not responsible for the breakup of their parents’ marriage. Psychotherapy and parent guidance can be also very helpful in helping parents to divorce in a manner that minimizes the negative effects on their children.
The Child & Family Center’s highly trained child mental health professionals can help you and your family adjust to life after divorce.
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The William Alanson White Institute established its award-winning, low-cost treatment center in 1948 to provide affordable psychotherapy and psychoanalysis to members of the community. Since that time, thousands of individuals and families have been served by our highly skilled clinicians. Download the Child & Family Center application or call (212) 873-7070 for more information.