It’s Up To Parents
Divorced parents sometimes hard to know the right thing to do for children. It may be even harder to implement if it requires being civil to an Ex you’d rather never see again. A number of studies have been done about the impact of divorce on children. For brevity I’ve chosen five of the studies and their results to mention here. Notice that there is one conclusion in every one of the studies: Parental conflict harms children.
- “Without question, the single biggest problem for children of divorce is being exposed to continuing parental conflict.” Edward Teyber, Helping Children Cope with Divorce. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass (1992), p. 79.
- “[I]t’s clear that children of all ages regard fighting between parents as their number-one divorce-related problem.” M. Gary Neuman, Helping Your Kids Cope with Divorce the Sandcastles Way. New York: Random House (1998), p. 197.
- “High conflict between parents not only causes children immense suffering, it causes serious problems in their development.” Judith S. Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee, What About the Kids? New York: Hyperion (2003), p. 204.
- “Our data show that the long-term consequences of interparental discord for children are pervasive and consistently detrimental . . . [and] have a broad negative impact on virtually every dimension of offspring well-being.” Paul R. Amato and Alan Booth, A Generation at Risk: Growing Up in an Era of Family Upheaval. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press (1997), p. 219.
- “Some parents desperately hold onto the belief that children are not affected by the parents’ conflicts. Sadly, this just isn’t true. Unhappy homes make unhappy children, and every divorce will take its toll unless some corrective steps are taken.” Archibald D. Hart, Children and Divorce: What to Expect—How to Help. Dallas: Word Publishing (1982, 1989), p. 121
Children need a safe container in which to grow. Parents are key components of that container. So is extended family, and as children grow older, community is also part of it. Without parents’ diligent effort to maintain such a container through divorce, it disappears – for a while or forever, with far reaching consequences. Divorce doesn’t eliminate the child’s need for such a container, it compounds it.
Remember that your children did not ask for this divorce. It was handed to them. Your children have no say and no control in how things will turn out. Imagine being tossed out of an airplane and the parachute cord is just out of reach. All your stretching, straining, and fretting doesn’t help you reach it. All you have are the assurances of someone telling you things will be ok but you’re not so sure because even they don’t sound so convinced. That is the experience of a child of divorce.
Families need a team of resources in order to divorce well. Divorce is not the kind of experience that you can stumble through and expect that a great life will miraculously reassemble once the divorce is final. Many things must be tended to, and there are things you can do before, during and after to set yourself up for success. (I’ll make a note to discuss those in future posts.) For now know that your family cannot, successfully, navigate the divorce experience without a lot of outside help any more than the Katrina survivors could. For your children’s sake I hope you will utilize every resource available to you.
One resource that supports parents through divorce is the interactive website www.uptoparents.org. One section helps parents identify important commitments – to each other and more importantly, to the children. Each parent can login separately, even from different locations, and specify the agreements he or she is committed to keeping. When you’ve both completed your lists the website will compile both your lists into a printable document.
It is imperative that you do whatever it takes to keep the problems between you and your Ex away from your precious children. So what do you do with all the anger, fear, and worry? It’s there, and if you don’t do something with it, it will leak out onto your children. To be there for your children in the most resourceful ways you will have to reduce your emotional load. Here are 3 ways I know that help.
- Attending a support group, which provides a more appropriate place to express.
- Enlisting a therapist or coach who can provide another listening ear, fresh opinions, different perspectives, and an opportunity to practice new behaviors.
- Participating in a group that is both supportive and educational will help you move through the consuming emotions of fear, anger, grief, and low self-worth, understand what went wrong in your marriage, and how you ended up there. Our Back to Wholeness seminar is specifically for such a purpose.
You can read more about how this seminar has helped other parents here.
Would love to hear about the creative ways you’ve been there for your kiddos during your divorce. Please share.