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“How can you tell me what to do? Look how you’ve screwed up your own life.”

-- Helping Children Cope with Divorce. Edward Teyber, 2001, John C. Wiley & Sons (2nd Edition)

 

What about the kids?

No one disagrees: divorce harms children. The question is, how much? And, more importantly, what can be done to mitigate their injuries?

More than a million American children suffer through their parents’ divorce each year. Many move from a two parent family to a single parent home. Most experience reduced income and circumstances with many moving into poverty as a result of the divorce.

The majority of children undergo some level of emotional trauma that varies with their developmental level and the depth of the conflict they feel. Many suffer substantial academic setbacks and behavioral problems. According to some authorities they are also more likely to experience physical and medical problems.

Divorce appears to have long-term consequences for their ability to form lasting intimate relationships and children of divorce are much more likely to experience divorce themselves.

On top of this, they suffer some level of stigma, and often find themselves in the middle of a war between the two most important people in their lives. If this weren’t enough, they are then usually forced to move physically between two households, each with a different layout, different rules, different diet, different routines and different parenting styles. Frequently new intimate partners to their parents move abruptly into the lives of these children, sometimes bringing other children in tow.

How could loving parents allow this to happen to their children? What would propel parents to accept this level of risk to their kids?

In a word: pain.

Suffocating pain and angry resentment, recurrent disappointment, rejection, loneliness, grinding conflict, jealousy, fear, unmet needs, betrayal, guilty doubt, and omnipresent tension are just part of the litany of emotional experiences that drive people apart, that break vows and sunder families.

But what can a parent do? What can parents do together for their children when the two adults can barely stand to be in the same room with each other?

First: grow up! You’re the grown-up here. Act like one.

Being grown up means to act logically first, putting emotions aside. Whether or not you choose a KidsStay approach or another, divorce yourself first from your own anger and irritation. Neither serves you or your kids.

Then, just for a short time try to see the world through your kids’ eyes. What are their needs? What will be their future? Try not to resolve your own anguish by increasing theirs.

You can do this. And you can do this better.

 

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