I sincerely feel it is not divorce per se that emotionally scars children. It is the parents approach to divorce that determines the positive or negative impact on the kids. The more I talk to divorced parents, the more I find this to be the truth.
Many studies indicate that children experience less emotional distress or trauma due to parental separation and divorce than from the emotional turmoil of a severely troubled intact family. Having myself grown up in a “stay together for the sake of the kids” troubled family, my gut says there is much truth to this reports.
Of course, no parent should ever take divorce lightly or consider it as anything other than a last option when all else fails in restoring harmony, respect and love between two parents.
But while it is usually a difficult time, divorce need not always be traumatic. Although it is stressful and upsetting, divorce can also be a relief from a destructive situation and an opportunity to create a much healthier and happier future for everyone in the family.
I have encountered many positive examples of child-centered divorce. I use the word positive because I believe that both parents were in accord on one crucial subject. They wanted the best for their children and, for that reason, made decisions that positively impacted their kids’ lives – even when it wasn’t easy, convenient or gratifying for their egos. These “enlightened” parents put aside their issues and resentments in order to keep the family structure strong, safe and supportive for their children. This, in turn, gives their children permission to go on with their lives as kids. Not kids from a divorced family. Just kids.
These children have birthday parties, holiday celebrations, school events and sports activities at which both Mom and Dad are often present together. They parent with civility and a united front that comes from agreeing to put their children’s best interests first and foremost in every family decision. Children in these families don’t have to choose between loving Mom or Dad. They aren’t encouraged to keep secrets from the other parent or reveal secrets from that parent’s personal life. They aren’t pawns. They aren’t victims. They’re kids who have learned to adapt to some changes in the form of their family, but not in the love and support they receive from their parents.
Can every divorce be this idyllic? Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. But every parent can vow to bend over backwards in reaching out to their former spouse for the mutual purpose of giving their kids the best co-parenting they possibly can. By consciously creating a child-centered divorce, parents can put their energy on the normal challenges of parenting — whether they live in the same town or across the country. And their kids can grow up knowing they are loved and valued by both Mom and Dad even if the physical structure of their family is vastly different from the way it used to.
Have you seen positive examples of child-centered divorce in your own life experience? What impressed you about these families? I encourage you to share your insights and other comments about these parents and children. Let’s get a dialogue started so we can learn from each other.