Parents often tell me their kids are “doing fine” with their divorce when the truth is, they aren’t. The fact that the children have no say in what happens plus anxiety over custody issues takes its toll. Consequently, parents often tell me they’ve decided to wait for their children to graduate high school before they divorce. The belief is that divorce hurts children for life. In my overall experience, it’s how parents act prior to or after the divorce that causes these issues.
As a psychotherapist working with children whose parents are divorcing, the most common scenario is that children are put in the middle. The parents have made them feel that they must choose between Mom and Dad, a choice no child can make. This type of environment will have a negative effect on the child as they grow up and when they are adults. Children embroiled in the battles of divorce become fearful of relationships. The fear stems from the belief that they are doomed to become their parents, and that a healthy relationship is impossible. The child associates relationships with emotional pain. As a result, they may avoid all relationships or have brief superficial ones due to their fear of commitment.
If a marriage or a relationship is irreparable 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 one another, and not using the children as weapons. Your marital relationship with your spouse can end, but your co-parenting relationship requires continual development, nurturing and support forever