Children, divorce and magical thinking

On Behalf of | Nov 3, 2022 | Divorce |

If you have children, you know that they can have an incredible sense of imagination. They will make up games to play or talk about things that never happened, and you can tell that they really feel that those things are real. They’re able to move into this imaginary world in a way that adults usually cannot do.

This can lead to something called magical thinking, where children give their own thoughts a bit too much power in their lives. It’s not that they think they have any magic abilities, of course, but they do believe that their thoughts have a certain amount of power. If they think about something intently, they may actually believe that they can manifest that event happening in real life.

Blaming themselves for divorce

This is why children often blame themselves when their parents get divorced. As a parent, you know that it is obviously not their fault. Maybe you found out that your spouse was having an affair with someone from work. Maybe the two of you are just having an amicable split because you mutually realize you’d be happier if you weren’t together. There are myriad reasons to get divorced, and it is almost never the fault of the child.

But children, since they believe in this magical thinking, may think that it’s their fault.

For example, maybe the parents recently had to punish the child for something that they did. The child was sent to their room, where they spent time thinking about how they wished they just didn’t have to live with their parents anymore.

When the divorce gets announced, then the child finds out that they are going to spend less time with their parents. Custody is going to be divided and they’re only going to live with one parent at a time. This is in no way a result of the child’s own thoughts, but they may blame themselves and think that they caused their parents to get divorced.

As a result, it’s very important to reiterate to children that it is not their fault in any way. This is just one thing to consider as you think about the best interests of the children and the legal steps you’ll need to take.