Medical professionals have identified a number of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) that are directly linked to physical, emotional and social problems that plague people as they become adults. The more ACEs a child experiences, the more they’re at risk of carrying unresolved trauma into adulthood and perpetuating some of the behaviors they saw in their homes as children.
The most serious of the ten identified ACEs involve physical and sexual abuse (either of the child themselves or one or both parents). Physical or emotional neglect are also ACEs. Not surprisingly, several more ACEs (substance abuse, incarceration and mental illness) involve the parents.
Divorce is often one of multiple ACEs
Many parents would be shocked to learn that divorce is also considered an ACE. While, on its own, it’s not as serious as the others, it often accompanies one or more of them. As noted, multiple ACEs can be particularly damaging to a person throughout their life.
Even if your child experiences no other ACE than divorce, it’s crucial not to dismiss the role it can play in a child’s or teen’s health and well-being. Even a relatively amicable split can cause anxiety and depression that can lead to substance abuse and other issues.
Co-parents can minimize the effect of divorce as an ACE
None of this should stop any parents from getting a divorce if that’s what’s best for them and for the family. Certainly, growing up with parents who stay in an unhappy or unhealthy marriage can cause its own trauma and relationship problems later in life.
However, understanding the potential effect that divorce can have on a child can help them better watch for signs of problems. It can also help them be more mindful of what’s in their child’s best interests as they work out their custody agreement and parenting plan and deal with the inevitable co-parenting issues.
If you and your co-parent can work together to provide amicable, healthy, consistent co-parenting across both homes, you can reduce the stress of the divorce and more quickly spot and address any issues your child may develop. Having sound legal guidance throughout your divorce is a good place to start.