By Aaron Kaplan
While the notion of “staying together for the children” may have become somewhat antiquated these days, this sentiment is not entirely without merit. Anyone who considers divorce must stop and think about the total impact this will have on the children. Considering the effects of a divorce on the children is not really outdated; it’s smart.
First of all, take into consideration that your children currently have a security framework. That security is extremely important to a child, and no matter how much you may try to implement two households that feel secure, you cannot duplicate the security they knew with both parents together. When parents split up, it will affect your children’s day-to-day lives, and there is just no way around it.
That security is a bit confusing to understand, especially in a household where the parents have been having many difficulties, perhaps even very loud arguments. Regardless of how many differences you have, it’s likely your children have always been used to having both of you. Dysfunctional or not, it’s what they’ve become accustomed to – it’s what they know.
Children believe that you, both parents, have their best interest at heart and that you will work together to do the best you possibly can. They feel safe and protected – emotionally and physically – as long as both parents are around. Even in an unhappy marriage and home, this security overrides everything else. Children are most secure when they know what to expect – good or bad – as odd as that sounds.
When divorce destroys that structure, you leave your kids feeling insecure and vulnerable – feelings which could very well haunt them for the rest of their lives. Often, children start “acting out” in ways that parents don’t expect, or understand. After all, the parents are thinking the divorce will stop all the quarreling and disruption, so why aren’t the children happier and more content?
Additionally, if you choose divorce, you will be denying your children access to both parents when they need it. Your children will have to wait until they go to one house or the other to spend time with a parent. Their time will be split, perhaps when they need one or the other parent at a crucial time. For some things, kids need their mothers, and for others they need their fathers. When the household is split, children are often forced to wait, which can cause a great deal of stress and can even result in the children shutting down their emotions because their parents are not available when they need them.
Regardless of the custody situation, there will always be a lack of support in some respects, and much needed input lacking in their upbringing. There will always be some sense of loss in their lives, of space not filled because one parent or the other isn’t there when they feel they need them. And, the irony of this is that the children will need both parents more than ever after the divorce rips the family apart. These are heavy consequences to consider.
To make things even worse, your children could be dragged into a custody battle. Regardless of whether you really have their best interests at heart, it is an incredible trauma for any child to have his or her parents fighting over custody or child support as if the child is either a prize or a burden.
Depending on your situation, the outcome of a custody battle could result in uprooting the children. Moving into a new environment on top of dealing with watching their parents split up, is nothing short of traumatic. Kids going through a divorce are already battling to come to terms with what is happening around them, and uprooting them into a new home only makes a bad situation worse.
You must also consider what you will be doing to their perceptions and views of marriage. Depending on the age of your children, they could be very impressionable. Watching their parents divorce could invoke a fear of being left behind, which could come up again and again with someone they love. This isn’t psycho-babble, this is proven fact. Children can feel abandoned during divorce, no matter how much the parents try to avoid that with ample visitation. This abandonment can lead to feelings of jealousy, possessiveness, and other unattractive traits that last a lifetime.
Children can, and do, become cynical about love and the beauty it can bring to their lives when they see the destruction of their parents love. This cynicism could keep them from committing in their own relationships later on in life. Unfortunately, this feeling can hide below the radar, only becoming known as it hinders the ability to find happiness as adults.
When it comes to the children, don’t just think about how they will cope with your divorce while it happens. Think about how your child will behave and reason five or ten years from now, in the aftermath of the divorce.
Whether you like it or not, and whether you allow it to affect your final decision or not, your divorce will still affect your children, now and for many years. There is no such thing as a “happy divorce” for children.
Take the time to really consider all possible repercussions of your decisions, then you can move forward from a place of awareness. Be especially cognizant of the negative impact a divorce can have in the lives of your children. Do you want to stay married for the sake of the children? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But you do need to understand what will happen either way.
Kaplan is a CDC Certified Divorce Coach®, Certified Prepare-Enrich Facilitator, and Coach Training Alliance- Certified Coach (CTA-CC). He specializes in helping people navigate the challenges of divorce, as well as life after divorce. He has had the honor and privilege of providing support, counseling, and coaching to numerous individuals and couples over the years. He draws upon his professional training, proven coaching methodologies and strategies, as well as his own personal and professional experience, in creating and maintaining a safe, calm, nurturing, supportive, patient, nonjudgmental, and highly confidential environment and relationship where he serves as your ally, sounding board, thinking and accountability partner, advocate, and cheerleader.