Children and Divorce: What if Your Kids Could Thrive?

“Your children are watching you very, very closely. Showing your children that you can respect each other and resolve conflict respectfully will give them a good foundation for the conflict that arises in their own lives.”  huffingtonpost.com

For obvious reasons, our children would almost always prefer that their parents’ relationship would remain intact throughout their lives. That stability helps them to know their well-being and all change creates uncertainty for most of us.

There is also a tremendous amount of research that shows how children suffer during a divorce, but I actually believe some of that is a result of how the parents move through the divorce themselves.

Did you know that more than 75% of couples going through a divorce spend less than ten minutes talking to their children about this change? No wonder they’re worried and fearful.

When the parents are hurt, angry, sad, frustrated or even in despair on their own emotional roller-coaster, that’s not going to give the children any comfort or know that all is well. Our children will mirror our energy about this change.

And when we treat our soon-to-be-ex with disdain or hatefulness, it makes our children feel like they have to choose sides between loving only one of their two parents, or loving one of them more than the other. When the parents don’t behave as emotional adults through this process, it forces the children to have to navigate Mom and Dad’s inability to communicate and be in the same room together for decades and possibly generations.

  • Do I have them seated together at my graduation?
  • What about at my wedding?
  • Will I have to plan two birthday parties for their first grandchild since they can’t be in the same room together without fighting or being angry?

When you look at the way most people do divorce it should not surprise us to see the statistics about how children suffer during and after a divorce.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

That doesn’t have to be your story.

It doesn’t have to be your family’s story.

If you divorce, it’s incredibly important for your children that you do this well. And no one has ever taught you how to do this. One of my clients had a sister who spent 18 months and $130,000 on her divorce. For contrast, here’s the experience of some of my clients:

When one client finally told the truth and what was right for her – that ultimately led to a divorce after 34 years of marriage – her young adult son finally came out to her and the family and shared his truth about being gay (which, of course, Mom already knew but was so grateful that he could finally embrace his truth). Now they’re both living authentically.

One of my clients had two young girls, ages 4 and 7 at the time of the divorce from her husband. He was a hard worker running his own business, so he relied on her to do most of the heavy lifting when it came to the girls. Now that he has the girls by himself half of the time, he knows what their favorite snacks are, he knows what subjects they’re struggling with in school, he knows what their favorite story is to be read at night before they go to sleep. He now knows when their birthdays are and what kind of toys to get them to make their birthdays special. The girls’ relationship with their father is closer now than it’s ever been and that, according to my client, is one of the blessings they found through divorce.

Another client was always running interference for her two teenage kids between them and their Dad, who could be hard on them at times. She would soften his words or talk to him about a different way to handle it; sometimes he would even apologize to the children. After their divorce, the Mom wasn’t there when the kids were with their Dad. This ended up being a good thing because it forced the kids to learn to communicate with their Father and set healthy boundaries for themselves, which they never would have learned if they always relied on Mom to fight their battles.

Of course, the thought of somehow hurting our children will keep us paralyzed in indecision and pain when we think the right answer for us is to divorce. No sane human being wants to intentionally hurt their children. But when divorce is the answer, it’s worthwhile to learn how to do it well and how to lovingly release the relationship so that maybe your kids (and both of you as individuals) could actually thrive after the divorce.