Divorce, ACEs and Your Kids – Part 2

In Part 1 of Divorce, ACEs and Your Kids, the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) of Losing a Parent to Separation, Divorce or Another Reason was explained as a potential type of childhood trauma. It can impact a child’s learning potential and life potential. Part 2 explores stress signals your young child may be sending if you are navigating a divorce and things you can do to halt an ACE in the making.

Some stress and anger are normal for children during a divorce, but acknowledging it and keeping it to a minimum will help your child sidestep learning and behavior challenges from preschool to high school. If you’re navigating a divorce or just thinking about it, there are things you can do to reduce your child’s chances of acquiring an ACE.

Wendy Dickens, Executive Director at First 5 Shasta and an ACEs Interface Trainer, encourages parents to reduce their child’s stress by solidifying a new family structure as a split family as soon as possible. Make efforts to strengthen the family, even a split family. Watch for signals that your child is feeling stress that s/he doesn’t know how to manage.

“Younger children display their stress differently than older children,” explains Dickens. “They may regress to bedwetting, nightmares, or throwing temper tantrums. These are indications that the child is struggling with the changes going on in the family. Parents will want to find time to ask about their child’s feelings, acknowledge their fears and stress, and try to give them some extra attention and cuddling.”

Dickens says, “Separation anxiety is more intense for younger children. Even the new routine of going back and forth between parents on a visitation schedule can be very stressful. Even worse is the termination of a relationship with a parent. Suddenly, mom or dad is just not there. Unless there is risk of abuse or the divorce involves a history of violence, it’s far better for the child if parents can manage their differences and support their child’s continuing relationship with both parents.”

Even when you know it’s the best decision for everyone, divorce is a confusing, difficult process for adults. It’s also difficult for kids. In Shasta County, resources are available to help your whole family reconcile their emotions and establish a new foundation that is desperately needed by children. Sometimes coming apart is the perfect time to strengthen your family and strengthen your child.


  • Kids Turn: Free 6-week workshop for the whole family (children 4+).
  • Parent Cafes: Parents learning together and from each other; free dinner and child care.
  • Triple P (Positive Parenting Program): Positive management of child behavior issues.
  • 5 Protective Factors: Protecting children from abuse and neglect and promoting optimal child development.
  • 40 Developmental Assets: Building blocks of healthy development; help children grow up healthy, caring, and responsible.

About Deborah Peel

Writer, blogger, marketer, mother, lover of big trees and isolated mountain tops. I'm passionate about the pathway to success that First 5 Shasta is building for young children. Our grantees, partners, and caring community members all contribute to this critical early childhood investment. Together, we make the pathway strong!
This entry was posted in 0-to-5 Focus and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *