With the rise in the trend of marriages becoming a ‘less than permanent’ situation; it seems that the true victims are often children. Each year there are thousands of children who become products of divorce and are forced to learn a new way of life that often is full of disconnect, turmoil, insecurity and worry. Divorce is often one of those necessary evils; needed in order to save the emotional life of one or two people and allow the path to happiness and personal unfolding to continue; but there is ALWAYS a consequence!
The effects of divorce on children vary greatly. They largely depend on how well equipped the parents are to introduce and move through the transitional phase of becoming a different kind of family. When parents handle the situation in private protecting each other and the children from negative bantering and comments and save the tumultuous feelings for friends or for times when the children aren’t around- children can transition very well! When parents argue, fight, bicker and wage war on each other; the life of a child is changed forever. Children should never NEVER be forced to pick and choose sides between their parents or have to decide or admit that they love one parent over the other. Chances are, no matter how bad a spouse someone is – they are loved by their child.
Consider this it is the right of each and every child to love their mom and dad with wild abandon; regardless of their faults (which they will realize in time) and to the fullest extent of their capability. Every child should have the chance and opportunity to see their parents individually as magical beings with super hero qualities that they can count on for the rest of their life. Even if mom realizes that dad’s drinking habit will eventually let down or disappoint their child; it is NOT her job to save her child from pain that may or may not come to fruition over time. Unless a parent is dangerous, detrimental or harming no one has any business interfering in the relationship their child has with their other parent! Taking this magical part of childhood away from a kid is down right mean, selfish and incomprehensible. Perhaps the marriage was competitive; but the child is NEVER the prize!
There are tons of reports that will quickly point out the detrimental effects that divorce has on a child; all of which are bleak. They recommend counseling and intervention and clearly indicate that changes in behavior, grades, friends and attitude are expected. But suppose that none of that has to happen? Could it be that parents could divorce and leave the children unscathed? Absolutely! If parents handle the divorce as something simply between them and make every effort to allow the child to witness that their life will continue just as it did before things can actually get better. This is especially true if the divorce is following a period of unsettledness or fighting. Arguing in front of the kids can cause more insecurity and worry than a divorce does. Once the divorce is realized, children could actually learn to relax, feel safe in their environment and upon realizing that they still have two parents, a home, friends and school- they may actually be better than before. Many children interviewed after divorce report feeling like a weight was removed from them. Eventually, if the parents are happier; the children will be happier. There is nothing more influential on a child than a happy go lucky and positive parent! Remove the bad relationship and mom or dad may begin to live again in every sense of the word.
If you are thinking about getting a divorce but are waiting until the children are older or hesitate because you are worried about the effects of divorce on your children; don’t! Here’s why! Children model many of their life relationship from what they learn at home during these developmental years. If they see parents who are constantly passive aggressive, show no emotion or respect for each other, have little in common, who don’t work out their problems successfully or who can’t talk to one another in a mature way; they will never learn this stuff themselves. They will grow up behaving in their relationships they way YOU behaved in yours. Children should witness adults in a loving, sometimes disagreeable yet safe relationship that is punctuated with respect. They should see hand holding and they should see mom and dad putting each other first. Not allowing this takes away many chances at happiness in their own adult life.
So many people stay together for the children. In reality they are staying together for fear. Fear of change, fear of being happy, fear of making the best of things and fear of being considered a failure. Marriage should be worked on and much effort should be put into keeping a family together. But if it can’t or just wont work; a family can still be kept together. Divorce is often the first thing that teaches a child that ‘they cant count on anything’ or ‘that nothing is safe’ and children will grieve much like they do with a death. Sometimes loudly, other times silently and even more often slowly! If you are unhappy with a heavy heart that feels lack of love or being loved; you owe it to your child to show them that there is another better way to live and still be a family.
The effects of divorce on a child are often less than the effects of a bad marriage and although the road may be slow and go for a while; it is easy to pick back up the pace and make the children feel good about things. It all depends on how adult the adults involved are willing to act. Divorce is not a time for role reversal where the child parents the parent- in fact it is a time where the parent must must must be the leader! This way children can follow their parents to a happier, more fulfilled and stable life filled with joy and the love of two parents. If this remains possible; children will handle everything just fine.