Parents say all the time that they are waiting for their children to graduate high school before they divorce. The belief is that divorce hurts children for life. This is not true. Of course every child has difficulties adjusting to a divorce, but it does not ruin their lives. What ruins a child’s life is how their parents act prior to or after the divorce.
I have had many children say to me, “I wish my mom and dad would get a divorce.” Often children are exposed to domestic violence, the issue of a parent having an alcohol or drug problem or emotional abuse between the parents. The children have to listen night after night to their parents fight. This is not good for a child. Most children never tell anyone outside the house because they are embarrassed or afraid that their parents will get mad.
This type of environment will have negative affects on the child as they grow up and when they are adults. The child learns not to trust so forming relationships is difficult and they also tend to associate relationships with emotional pain so they tend to avoid them.
Another common issue that creates problems for children is if their parents decide to divorce. The divorce is not the problem. The problem is how the parents decide to divorce. Some parents decide to make their divorce a war and their primary weapon are the children. The parents make the child feel like they have to choose between mom and dad. This is an impossible choice for a child. Some parents tell their children everything that is happening in Court. A child is not emotionally or cognitively ready to handle this information. As a result many children act out. It is usually the only option the child sees. They are afraid to say anything because dad or mom might get mad. The child is often too embarrassed to say anything because they know their parents are acting immaturely so they say nothing. Again this situation causes younger children to act out at school or day care. In teenagers the common responses are using alcohol or drugs, not doing school work, spending more time in their rooms or out with friends and another common response is to engage in sexual activity. Furthermore, because children have seen the battles of divorce, they become fearful of relationships. They may be afraid that they cannot have a healthy relationship because they had no role model. Therefore, they feel they will continue their parents’ pattern. They may form an idea that a healthy relationship is impossible. As a result, they may stay away from relationships, have superficial relationships or go from relationship to relationship due to their fear of commitment.
If a marriage or a relationship is not working and if the parents can decide to end the marriage in a healthy adult manner, there should be no long term effects on the children. A healthy adult manner means being civil to each other and not using the children as weapons. Remember you can always decide to divorce each other, but that doesn’t mean you stop being parents together. Because the two of you have children together, you have to deal with each other for the rest of your lives. You don’t stop being a parent when a child turns 18. There will be weddings, grandchildren and holidays. So if you don’t want a divorce to have a negative impact on your child, then the two of you need to act like mature adults. This means being civil to each other during the divorce and after. You cannot stop being parents together – remember that fact.
Dr. Michael Rubino has over 18 years experience working with family’s going through the divorce process. For more information on Dr. Rubino and his private practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com or Facebook page, Facebook.com/drrubino3