A lot of people ask me about this area, which has been largely underestimated. If you’re unhappy, the children are unhappy; if you’re happy, the children are happy. Thus, a divorce could be a win-win situation. Simple math, right? Wrong! As much as you want to believe it, children do suffer when their moms and dads split up. What’s more, divorce doesn’t make their moms and dads any happier, either.
A child’s logic is simple but profound
Children look up to adults, especially their parents. They perceive them as these perfect beings with supernatural abilities to protect and meet their needs. To them, there is no problem too great that the parents cannot handle. When the parents fail to demonstrate their abilities to care or make decisions that truly consider the children well-being, it shatters the basic safety and belief of the children. To them, there is only one right family relationship: a mom and dad have to be together to be happy. Any different would present a conflict or betrayal to their understanding.
The common responses of children towards divorce
- They tend to be manipulative
Most parents are terrified that their children might love the other parent more, leading them to plot ways to get the child to be on their “side”. When a child sees such manipulative ways, they too start to follow, thinking it is alright to do so. They would spin on details to get the parents’ attention. They would alter the truth to show the parents that they are indeed on their “side”. But in actual fact, the child is having trouble recognising their own feelings. From such action, they learn how to create dramas, not resolve conflicts.
- They tend to develop a sense of guilt
Children are blameless in a divorce. However, when both parents fight in front of the children, they feel that they are partly responsible for the breakdown of the marriage. Also, some parents would send verbal and nonverbal messages to the child that it’s not okay to be with the other parent. This increases their guilt of wanting the communicate or love the “bad” parent. And this will lead up to a rocky start for them to instil confidence in everything they do in the future.
Not my child. He/she is old/mature enough to know the difference.
I’m not saying every child of divorce will turn out problematic. In fact, there are some who are high achievers. However, it doesn’t mean these children don’t experience deep and lasting emotional trauma. There’s no denying that parents are responsible for colouring a child’s view of the world for the rest of their lives. While some recovers from the loss of relationship and security, the emotional scars for most have additional, more visible consequences. In most part, the negative effects of divorce on children normally take place later in their life and amplifies they are going through puberty. Once there, it will be hard to undo the damage that is done.
What can be done
- Stop using them as weapons
It’s common for parents to buffer the pain of a failed marriage by trying to destroy their ex’s relationship with the children. It happens when the parents let their anger or fear cloud their judgement. The form of punishment or vengeance can be from denying the other parent communication with the child or even coach the children to lie to hurt their ex. Sadly, the damage is irreparable, and it is the children who ultimately suffer.
- Look at the world through their eyes too
Parents tend to want to have their own needs met after a divorce – to find happiness again with someone new. I’m not implying that the parents love or worry about their children less. It’s that they are fully engaged in rebuilding their own lives and often forgotten about the children. This will only increase the feelings of abandonment and alienation for the child. So, be there for them.
- Ask for professional help
While we often think of children as resilient, going through such trauma is a lot to ask. Seek for certified doctors or children psychiatrists. Don’t be afraid to ask for professional help for yourself as well. Be sure to meet and talk to them beforehand. Ask yourself if they are able to ease the situation for you and your family. I cannot stress enough how important it is to find the right counsellor. If you’re unsure, ask your lawyers for recommendations.
Lastly, do what is right and best for the children. It’s not a small matter to them. Don’t let people control you. It is not fair on the kids. Don’t blame others for the choices you made. You can do divorce better.