Divorce is a highly emotional topic.
When children are involved the consequences are far more dramatic – and, not surprisingly, so are our opinions. I know there are many people who sincerely believe that no divorce is a good divorce. They feel children are always and inevitably harmed by the physical and emotional separation of their parents, and that parents should – for the sake of the kids – just stick it out and not rock the boat with divorce or separation until the children are grown.
This is a particularly prevalent view for many who are grown children of divorce. These adults have experienced the dramatic life changes that come with divorce and feel permanently scarred as a result.
This response is certainly understandable, but it’s not the final word on this subject. I have another perspective based on the experience of being raised in a family that chose to stay together “for the sake of the kids”. My parents should have divorced early in their marriage. They were both miserable together, had little respect for each other, and raised two children in a home fraught with anger, tension, frequent loud arguments and discord.
I remember my mother asking me one day when I was in early adolescence whether she should divorce Dad. “No,” I cried. I wanted a Mom and a Dad like the other kids. My childhood was miserable and filled with insecurity. Immersed in that insecurity I feared what life would be like if my parents were divorced. Mom didn’t have the courage to do it anyway (those were vastly different times, especially for women) and she continued in her unhappy marriage for decades more.
Looking back, I feel that was an unfortunate mistake. Neither of my parents were bad people. They were both just totally mismatched. Their communication skills were miserably lacking and they were wrapped up in winning every battle at all costs. The cost, of course, was the well-being of their family, especially of their children. I believe that each of them would have been happier and more fulfilled had they parted ways and remained single or chosen another mate.
Based on my personal experience as a child and later as a divorced parent, I’ve come to firmly believe that it’s not divorce per se that scars our children. It’s wounded parents who do not care, understand or see that their behavior is hurting their children. It’s vindictive parents who put down the other spouse in front of their kids. It’s parents who decide they should have sole custody or primary influence over the children with little regard as to the kid’s relationship with the other parent. It’s parents who confide their adult dramas to innocent children who just want to love Mommy and Daddy. It’s parents who put financial gain and material decisions over the emotional well-being of their children.
In essence, it’s selfish parents who put their own needs ahead of those of their totally dependent children when making life-altering parental decisions. When these parents get a divorce, the consequences are not only sad. Too often they end up scarring innocent psyches. They forget – or are ignorant about – how their decisions will affect their children in the months, years and, yes, decades ahead. It is not divorce itself, but the divorce of two parents so enraged by each other that they make decisions based on blind hatred rather than conscious, educated wisdom.
Keeping that in mind, I was extremely sensitive to my own son’s emotional experience when I got divorced. My “wasband” and I strived daily to create a positive outcome and a respectful co-parenting relationship – what I now call a child-centered divorce. My now-grown son wrote for Foreword to my book, How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children – with Love! His dad and I were both at his wedding, along with our new spouses and lots of family members on both sides. I’ve learned that empathy, putting yourself in your child’s shoes before making any decisions related to divorce, is the key to creating the best possible future for children experiencing divorce. There are no simple answers to the challenges surrounding divorce. But putting your children first whenever possible is sound advice you’ll never regret following.
Read more posts by Rosalind Sedacca, JenningsWire blogger.