Open up any newspaper in almost any area of the country and one of the top ten stories will likely be about how a divorce went bad and ended up with an ex-spouse, children or everyone dead. Divorce can be traumatic and devasting on everyone involved — especially the children.
In the fifties, people believed that if parents were unhappy the kids would be unhappy too. The myth helped convince fighting spouses that a divorce would be best for both the parents and children. Family counselors assumed, “What’s best for the parents is best for the kids.” Since then, research on children on parents who divorce points to the same truth. Children agonize when moms and dads split up.
Looking being the statistics and the emotional trauma we can see the reasons for troubled kids are simple but powerful.
Children carry the idea that their parents are all-powerful and should be able to work through any issue. Parents are often perceived by the kids as competent individuals with supernatural abilities to meet the needs of the children and no problem is too great for their parents to deal with. When the parents divorce this supernatural mindset held by the children is shattered and along with it some of the child’s basic assumptions about safety and their belief in their parents abilities to take care of them.
Children have the belief that the only proper family relationship is that Mom and Dad are together — and always will be together. If this relationship dynamic gets re-configured, the child experiences a conflict between their belief and what they see.
Thirty years of research continues to show the negative effects divorce has on children. The results are measurable and calculated in increased risks. The studies, in other words, don’t mean that your child will undoubtedly experience them, just that your child is at greater risk. The odds, just, are stacked against your child when you divorce.
Mountains of research which compares children of divorced parents to children with married parents indicates:
- Children from divorced homes suffer academically
- Kids whose parents split-up are more likely to be jailed for committing a crime as a juvenile
- Children in divorced families are nearly five times as prone to live in poverty
- Poor math/social skills. Children of detached parents fall behind their classmates in math and social skills and are prone to suffer anxiety, stress and low self-esteem
To ease the shock factor, the parents need to establish a priority for a sense of family order and predictability. This means putting the three R’s in place so that the child’s trust in security, familiarity and dependency — Routines, Reassurance and Rituals.
As parents establish Routines — household and visitation — the child will learn what to expect. Allowing the child to create Rituals will allow the child to fee more in control of their life. With continual Reassurance, the parents can stay connected to the child and show the child they are committed to making this new family arrangement work.
Before you say that this can’t happen to your child, remember that the children and teens in the studies are normal kids. Their parents didn’t they would get involved in these things either.