The typical pressing concerns such as money, living arrangements and dividing possessions all play a role in the decision to divorce, however, what haunts many parents most is the effect on the children. We have all heard the awful stories or sometimes even witnessed first hand the effects that divorce can have on children 'but that does mean that every couple that should stay in an unhappy or unhealthy marriage? As an adult child of parents who should have divorced and as a divorced parent I will say that the answer is emphatically no.
To approach any complex, far reaching problem with a one dimensional perspective is a bad idea no matter what the subject. Assuming that children will experience greater trauma dealing for a time with their parents' divorce than they would if their unhappy, combative parents had stayed together (with them in the middle) is to willfully ignore and negate the effects of living in the middle of a war zone with nowhere to hide. Both parents looking to recruit as them as allies during their divorce for a time can be bad enough, but living with bitter, fighting parents during such an important period in a child's life serves only to teach them how to conduct a dysfunctional, distorted relationship with those closest to them. This will be the model for how they learn to resolve conflict, and can often become the beginning of future relationship problems. It may happen when you're not looking, but make no mistake, it can happen. Kids will almost always do what we do, not what we say and this is no exception. And while it is certainly true that all children become victims of their parents' divorce to some degree it is also true then that we should assign responsibility to those who create that kind of environment around a divorce in the first place and this is where the issue becomes a two part problem
Do not Make Your Divorce Your Children's Divorce
Most parents I witness in my mediation practice wisely choose to put the best interests of their children first and by doing so greatly reduce the risk of short and long term divorce "fallout". However, a lengthy, contested divorce fueled by anger and revenge, or with unresolved psychological issues driving abusive behavior by either parent can often spell out of control in the Family Court system. This can put children, through no fault of their own, in a front row seat for the ugly side of their parents' divorce, and under these circumstances the real problem reveals itself:
How a child's parents conduct themselves and the methods used to facilitate their divorce contributions overwhelmingly to the total lasting negative effect a child will experience as a result of the divorce.
Some have argued that unemotional divorces do not exist and to that I would agree. But how far parents take their feelings and act out in anger while going through their divorce is manageable and it's their parental responsibility to protect and insulate their children from their emotional pain as much as humanly possible. A child who lives through the divorce of their parents will always face emotional and lifestyle adjustments. However, if parents are mindful of their volatile emotions and handle their divorce sensibly from the beginning, a low conflict divorce will minimize the upheaval and quite possibly even become a useful example in the long run for teaching their children how to handle conflict within close relationships . Even if only one parent refrains from engaging in destructive or combative changes, the child will still benefit but age specific counseling is highly recommended in such cases.
I have an intimate understanding of the dilemma divorcing couples face because I found myself in this same agonizing situation more than fifteen years ago. In addition to having to make a very tough choice to divorce my husband, many aspects of my divorce which followed the typical litigation route with both of us using attorneys at first did not go as I had hoped. From the moment I made the decision to end my marriage to the moment eight years later it took me to recover financially, I could have, and sometimes should have been angry. But I was not. My own family was not any help because they continued to lament over the situation regarding my daughter every time we spoke. My message to them was clear and I will end this piece the same way I ended my final conversation ever with them on the subject …
I can be angry, I can be bitter, I can take him back to court, I can hire another attorney and hope for the best … But in the end only two people will suffer for those actions: My daughter and myself.
I made a choice from the beginning to handle my divorce as amicably as possible for my daughter's benefit and I remained that way even when he always did not. But I chose to get on with my life, and hanging on to bitterness over mistakes in the past would not help me get to where I planned to go. I wish everyone who reads this article and everyone contemplating divorce the wisdom to choose wisely and the strength to see it through.