A research team at The University of California, Santa Barbara found one way to determine the effect of divorce on your child is to examine their saliva. When someone’s body is under stress, it produces more cortisol in their saliva. However, for most divorcing parents, testing your children’s saliva to see how they feel is not a practical option.
Why is it hard to tell how your child feels during a divorce?
While you should ask your children how they feel, you cannot rely on getting the full truth. These are some of the reasons children may not be candid with you about how your divorce affects them:
- They want to protect you: Your child will see the emotional toll divorce has had on you. They may decide not to burden you with their problems. Or, they may decide that telling you the truth may hurt you.
- They feel stuck in the middle: Children may measure what they divulge about happenings in the other household to avoid conflict between you and your spouse. They might also be unsure of where they stand on specific issues that divide you.
- They do not understand their feelings: Not everyone is good at turning their attention inward. Many people struggle with self-reflection. Small children may still be confused about why you no longer all live together.
- They do not know how to express themselves: Teenagers can struggle to communicate at the best of times. Do not expect them to give a coherent, detailed self-analysis when you ask them how they feel.
What other ways can we check how our children are coping?
If you cannot rely on your child to tell you everything, what can you do? Inform teachers and any other adults your child comes into regular contact with that you are divorcing. Let them know about your child custody agreement, so they can spot if a child behaves differently when with one parent. Talk with the other parent about your child. They may notice things you do not. Above all, make time to be present with your child. Things can get hectic during and immediately after divorce. If you are always busy, your child may feel you do not care.