Deciding to divorce is probably one of the hardest decisions a parent will make. But is staying together more detrimental to the children? Some parents are so worried about the trauma of divorce that they think staying together, remaining in unhappy marriages, is best. But is it? Remaining in a dysfunctional marriage can also be harmful for kids. When the alternative is a home environment filled with frequent conflict and tension, divorce may be best and can benefit children in the long run.
Children are surprisingly resistant. The short term effects of divorce are felt by everyone involved, but research shows that most children recover rather rapidly. The children are often relieved that the fighting and worrying has finally ceased and the environment has calmed down. Many children may experience confusion, anger and anxiety, although those feelings tend to diminish over time depending on the effect of divorce on their own world. The potential for lasting emotional harm to children is higher when the parents are openly hostile and even violent in front of the children. The children from families where the divorce is more of a surprise tend to have a harder time adjusting, though. If everything is rocking along and suddenly the children are thrown into their parents divorcing, no matter how civil, will greatly disrupt their lives.
The way that the parents handle the divorce seems to have the most impact on the children. Some adults experience feelings of failure, depression, or even substance abuse during and following a divorce. These things will definitely have a negative effect on the children involved. Children, too often, have to grow up too fast or become the adult, only adding to their frustration. The stress of the divorce never should impair the parent’s ability to parent.
When a group of children from divorced parents were interviewed, the answers were rather surprising. Many said that their story of their divorced parents are many times outweighed by the dysfunctional family stories of children whose parents stayed together. As stated before, many kids were relieved when their environment felt “calm and safe” and all the arguing stopped.
Divorce does not mean that you have failed as a person. Your marriage should not determine your self-worth or your ability to parent. Many times the divorce and the children will help you become a stronger and more independent person, urging them to do the same. Few people, no matter the age, are all that well-adjusted anyway.
If you do decide that divorce is the best answer, remember that the relationship with your children should not suffer. It may require more work, or more intentional work, but it is definitely well worth the effort. Treat your children as people, not as pawns. Respect is the utmost emotion that should be considered and openly discussed.
Children will look to the parents for emotional support and not the ramifications of resentment or anger. In most states parents are required to attend parenting classes when children are involved in the divorce proceedings. Keep the interests of the children in mind as you go through the divorce. Sometimes ending an unhappy marriage can make for better, happier parents.