A Child’s Perspective on Divorce
Feb 11, 2021 | Written by: Share|
If a couple has children and is getting divorced, their children should be their biggest concern. We have all heard this often, from attorneys, judges, psychologists, news reporters, etc.; the children are the innocent victims in a divorce case. While attorneys and divorcing parents discuss this, often this important consideration falls by the wayside during a divorce. While in some cases parties do focus on the children and their well-being during the divorce process and post-divorce, too often parties are focused on themselves, or on punishing the soon-to-be ex-spouse.
Research has shown that the most well-adjusted children from a divorce situation have two main things in common. First, their parents were civil with each other through the divorce process and continued to be civil after the divorce. Second, both parents were involved in the child’s life during the divorce process and after the divorce. These are two issues that parents should not just keep in mind but should focus on during their divorce and in their post-divorce lives.
When I have clients whose own parents went through a nasty divorce, these clients often have a clearer perspective on this. They do not want to repeat the mistakes of their parents, and they focus more on the children and making sure the children are okay through the process. However, unless our own parents have been divorced, we do not have the same perspective on what it is like for a child going through a divorce.
Children do not want their parents to divorce. They often feel pulled between both parents, and without a stable home. They have no control over the situation and, at times, do not understand why it is happening. A child loves both parents. Both parents need to understand that the child has more than enough love for both of them, and it is not a competition for the child’s affection. Children often will favor one parent over the other, not only in divorce settings but also in intact families. This does not mean that they do not love both parents, or that either parent should be upset by this.
When a parent wants to spend as much time as possible with a child, he/she is usually not taking that position to “take away” the other parent’s time with the child. Such parents simply want to spend time with their child, and it is a good thing for both parents to want to spend as much time as possible with their children.
While it is unreasonable to expect most divorcing parents to be best friends, they do need to focus on being civil toward one another for the sake of the children. Although parents often have a difficult time controlling their emotions about the other parent in front of the children, it is extremely important to do so. Even when a parent does not believe he/she is overtly disparaging the other parent by making a derogatory statement about them, something as “small” as making a certain face when talking about the other parent or saying things in a certain manner can be just as bad. It is not just the words that can be damaging but also a parent’s actions and facial expressions. No child wants to hear anyone disparage one of their parents, especially the other parent. It is hurtful and upsetting for the child and it can cause an enormous amount of emotional damage.
Divorcing parents should be able to sit next to each other at a school event, stand next to each other on the sideline of a sporting event, and, most important, be able to have civil discussions about the child. Divorcing parents who cannot get along and clearly cannot stand each other create a tremendous amount of stress for their children. While divorce is extremely stressful, and often it is difficult to control one’s emotions, it is very important to maintain control of one’s actions toward the other parent as it directly relates to the children.
Parents need to be involved in their children’s lives. It is important for them to take an interest in the child’s interests, even if it is not something the parent would want to do themselves. Parents need to encourage their children to branch out into different areas, explore different interests, and encourage their happiness. While often parents have demanding jobs that require a tremendous amount of focus, they should spend time with their children and be present when they are with their children, rather than focusing on their laptops or cell phones. The children will either look back on their childhood with fond memories because their parents were involved in their lives, or they will look back with resentment because their parents were not “present” even if they were there. This has become even more difficult in an era where individuals work long hours, weekends, vacations and even holidays. The lines have been completely blurred from fairly regular work hours to many people working all the time. Parents must be aware of this as their children will grow up in the blink of an eye and they will never be able to get that time back.
My recommendation to everyone getting a divorce who has children is to focus on what you can control and to not obsess over what you cannot. You can control your own reactions to events, you can control how you treat your spouse/ex-spouse, and you can control how you treat your children. You cannot control your spouse/ex-spouse or their actions, you cannot control the court system, and you cannot control the judge who may make the decisions in your case. You often cannot control your children either. Focus on your children. Each day when you wake up, be thankful for your children and think about how you can make their life better during the divorce or after the divorce. Treat your children’s mother or father with respect, the same way you want him/her to treat you, even if he/she does not treat you that way. Not only will your children love you, but they will appreciate everything you did for them, especially when they become old enough to realize it.