“Divorce is a life-transforming experience. After divorce, childhood is different. Adolescence is different. Adulthood – with the decision to marry or not and have children or not – is different. Whether the final outcome is good or bad, the whole trajectory of an individual’s life is profoundly altered by the divorce experience.“
– Divorce researchers Wallerstein, Lewis & Blakeslee (2000)
Understanding What’s at Risk For Children When Parents Divorce
Over 1 million children in the United States experience a parental divorce each year. (Clarke, 1995) More than half of all U.S. marriages are likely to end in divorce, and as many as 70% of these marital ruptures involve young ones. Because divorce so often involves children and because it is a significant life stressor with a potential to do severe harm, divorce represents one of the most substantial health and welfare risks kids face.
Divorce has become so commonplace and widely accepted that it’s easy to forget a rather bitter reality about the whole thing: It can be one of the most traumatizing things for children to endure, easily equaling and even outdoing many other types of childhood trauma that you could name. Wherein children are concerned, divorce becomes more than a separation of spouses. It’s the implosion of a child’s family, their most important foundation for life. When this crumbles, the children often crumble along with it. Understanding the dangers within divorce is a must for every parent who is concerned about the welfare of their children. Within this book we’ll help you navigate the potential problems that divorce brings, so that your kids will emerge with the least amount of injury possible.
The Realities of Children & Divorce
The bad news:
- Divorce often harms children significantly. The effects of divorce are frequently more universally hurtful and long-lasting than other types of maltreatment. (see our book: Child Maltreatment – A Cross Comparison)
- Many kids carry the scars of divorce well into adulthood. Some may never fully recover, and can continue to suffer negative effects as adults.
- Experiencing parental divorce is associated with a host of psychological, psychosomatic and sociological injuries in children, along with a number of adverse health problems.
- Parental divorce is one of the leading causes of behavioral problems and emotional disturbances in children.
The good news:
- We’re not here to judge. We’re here to help you make the most of a difficult and unfortunate situation. Things in life don’t always go as we intend them to. When they don’t, we must do all we can to make the best of a bad situation, without wasting time on blame games or “should have’s.” We understand that this has probably been one of the most difficult decisions in your life, something you’ve stressed out about and cried over, and the last thing we want to do is rub salt in the wound. Our goal is not to beat you up about what went wrong, but to help you create the best environment for your kids going forward.
- Divorce, although it can be extremely traumatic, is sometimes the lesser of two evils. There are many undesirable situations that can arise in family dynamics, and maintaining a dysfunctional household isn’t exactly ideal for the children either.
- There are ways to minimize the damage it causes children. Harm doesn’t just fall from the heavens because parents initiate the act of divorce: it occurs because of specific elements and circumstances within the situation, most of which can be moderated. Minimize these problems and you mitigate the damage.
- With the proper steps taken and careful consideration for the child’s welfare by both parents, most kids can heal from the trauma of divorce, and will show few lasting effects. It will still be difficult, but it doesn’t have to lead to permanent injury.