What Is an Unstable Emotional Household in a Divorce?

By Valerie Stevens

Torn photo of home symbolizes divorce

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An emotionally unstable household during a divorce is one in which circumstances and moods are constantly changing. Family members, particularly children, do not know what to expect from day to day or moment to moment. The result is often fear and feelings of insecurity. According to Dr. Tracey Marks, an Atlanta psychiatrist and psychotherapist, research shows that lack of stability in the home, rather than the divorce itself, creates the most problems for adults and children.


An adult going through a divorce suffers through a range of emotions from sadness to betrayal. Even when a divorce is welcomed, the husband and wife are letting go of the dream they shared when they married. Sadness is a natural reaction to seeing the world around you dissolve. When couples go through the divorce process, they often become pitted against each other as they try to secure their separate financial futures. A woman might feel betrayed when a husband tries to claim a monetary interest in her business or seek alimony from her. A man might become angered by his wife’s claim to part of his inheritance. As adults work through these feelings, emotional volatility creates an atmosphere of uncertainly in the home.


A child going through a divorce often encounters feelings of fear, sadness, guilty, rejection and anger. The family, as the child knows it, is changing drastically. The child might experience loneliness when a parent leaves, as well as anger toward the parent for leaving. According to authors Elissa P. Benedek and Catherine F. Brown in "How To Help Your Child Overcome Your Divorce," children fear the unknown and will often prefer an unsafe home life to the collapse of their family. Even though abuse might have been a part of the child’s life, the uncertainty of the future creates emotional instability.


Maintaining a stable home environment during and after a divorce is one of the most important things a parents can do to promote emotional stability for children, according to Diane M. Berry, author of "Child-Friendly Divorce: A Divorced Therapist’s Guide to Helping Your Children Thrive!" Children need to know who is preparing their meals, who will pick them up from school or meet them at the bus. Visitation with the non-custodial parent is another area that needs to have structure. Children and adults need to know when they can expect to see each other after a separation.


A change in income can create emotional instability in the home when family members can no longer maintain the living standards to which they were accustomed. When children can no longer wear the designer clothes or participate in the extracurricular activities they once enjoyed, they often suffer feelings of inadequacy. In dire circumstances, coming home to a house where there is no electricity can be a real crisis for a child. Poverty creates emotional instability when the members of a household become uncertain of where they will live and how they will eat.