It’s no secret that divorce can adversely affect a child’s mental health. But did you know that divorce can affect your child’s physical health too? Studies show that children of divorced parents are at a higher risk of developing a physical illness later in life.
Here’s how divorce can affect a child’s physical well-being and how you can ease the stress of your divorce on your kid.
Elevated cortisol levels lower the immune system
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University released a 2017 report indicating that divorce impacts a child’s physical health more than previously thought. In the study researchers quarantined 201 healthy adults and exposed each of them to a virus that causes the common cold. After being monitored the scientists found that adults whose parents divorced when they were minors were three times more likely to be harmed by the virus than were the adults whose parents remained together.
Researchers believe that divorce can lead to increased cortisol levels and lower immune systems that can put children at higher risk of contracting a virus. Unfortunately this risk isn’t always minimized as the child ages. In the Carnegie study scientists found that the increased inflammation caused by stress can affect a child for 20 to 40 years after a divorce and result in long-lasting health problems.
How parents can ease the stress of divorce on their kids
Luckily there are steps that you can take as a parent to reduce the impact that a divorce will have on your kids. It is critical that you do not allow your children to witness any arguments between you and your ex-spouse. Exposure to parental conflict can put children in a position where they feel like they need to pick sides. Your child should be your priority – not winning an argument.
You should also reassure your kid that a change in family dynamics does not mean a change in familial support. Let them know that you and their other parent are there for them and will continue to love and care for them. Kids tend to have many questions throughout the process and letting them know that they can come to you for answers can help them to cope.
By following these types you may be able to reduce the short- and long-term impact that your divorce can have on your child’s physical health. You and your ex are entitled to feeling upset and angry but when expressing those emotions make sure it doesn’t come at the cost of a child’s well-being.