Clearly divorce can have an impact on the health of the spouses going through it. (See previous blogs.) But did you know it could also have a detrimental effect on the health of the children involved? A family dealing with a divorce has to adjust to a “new normal.” This includes children being shuffled back and forth between parents, moving to a new house and/or school, and just a adjusting to a new routine that is different from what everyone is used to. Stress can often come along with new routines and the way children of divorce deal with this stress can have an impact on their physical and mental health.
One recent study published online in Childhood Obesity followed the eating habits of children whose parents were married, separated and divorced. Divorce May Mean Kids Down More Soft Drinks, by Robert Preidt, health.usnews.com, March 10, 2015. The study found that those children whose parents were separated or divorced were more likely to drink soft drinks or sugary beverages. Too many sugary drinks can put a child at risk for obesity. The lead researcher of the study hypothesized that children drink more sugary beverages as an easy quick fix for the stress that comes a long with dealing with divorce and change in a child’s usual routine. In addition, it’s possible that the children have better accessibility to these drinks than they used to, as the parents are also dealing with stress and may not be paying as close attention to what the children are eating and drinking.
Since children are drinking these sugary drinks as a way to deal with the stress of the divorce, there are several things parents can do in an attempt to decrease this unhealthy habit. First, parents can keep their children’s routines as close as possible to what they were pre-divorce. If this is not at all possible, establish a new routine and stick to it so that the children can become used to the “new normal” more quickly. In addition, parents can take away the accessibility of these sugary beverages. Though the children may get them elsewhere, if they are not kept in the house it will certainly cut down on consumption. Thus, while this statistic may be concerning, it seems that there are some easy adjustments divorcing parents can make to keep their children from going down this particular path toward obesity.