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Children and Divorce


MandyLaLa

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I'm not sure if this is exclusive to biblical/christian families or if it has a broader reach. But the context I usually hear it in is within a religious Christian home/marriage. The concept that divorce is terrible, it devastates a child, should be avoided at all costs and that all kids wish their parents would back together.

I don't understand where this idea come from, my parents divorced when I was 3, it never depressed or upset me. It was honestly the best decision for my family. I never once wanted them to get back together. That would of been hell. I don't understand why marriage, even a dysfunctional or abusive marriage is prized in religious circles over divorce.

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Divorce can be devastating to a child, however, sometimes it is still the better alternative. I spent much of my childhood WISHING my parents would just get it over with and divorce already.

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I think that it's a myth caused by the predjudice of divorce in our culture. And the kids who buy into that myth also have issues. BUT if a child does not have that predjudice, they are generally relieved to not live with parents who don't like each other. I haven't seen an issue in my students if they have divorced parents or not. I have seen a difference based on parenting or the individual child, but not the marriage status of their parents.

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My parents aren't divorced, but some of my friends whose parents divorced have said things similar to Trynn, that they wanted them to divorce earlier or that they were glad their parents divorced because they were fighting all the time, etc.

I think from a secular position, divorce *is* a big change and that in itself can be traumatic or upsetting to a child. There are lots of aspects to divorce like changing the child's routine, not seeing both parents all the time, maybe they move to a new house, that can be upsetting or cause upheaval and have nothing to do with "Marriage is sacred!1!!" I don't think these are necessarily reasons not to get divorced but just things to be aware of if it does happen, so you can help your kids through it. If the parents no longer get along, it might end up creating a more peaceful and emotionally healthy environment for the kids if they divorced.

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One more thing. I am watching somebody close to me go through a divorce due to emotional and verbal abuse. Their child currently is mostly with her with a temporary custody order, however she's having a hard time dealing with the child not wanting to go to the father's house when it is time for his custody. This is because the child has witnessed the father trying to control every aspect of their lives, and blowing up at them when he couldn't. He has alienated himself from his wife (who I do think he loved, but refused to get any help to save the relationship) and his daughter (who he also loves) with his behavior. Where did he learn this behavior? His father. Why did his wife decide she could not deal with it any longer? When their child started pulling her aside when daddy was around to ask for things like snacks so that he didn't control the conversation. Looking at how beat down his mother is also encouraged her to get out.

Another case of the patriarchy causing problems.

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I got divorced when my kids were 8 and 10. They are all grown up now. All three of them will happily tell you that both their father and I became much happier people after we were apart. We are better parents and better people apart than we could ever be together when our differences set the tone for our lives and for our children's lives. Our parenting went for 2/3 me and 1/3 him to nearly 50/50. My ex and I often commented how we had the best babysitters in the universe and enjoyed the fact that when we went away for business or pleasure, the children were with another person who loves them as much as the other.

Over the years, my ex and I have grown to tolerate each other and even have a casual friendship. We celebrate important events together without incident. (This is completely opposed to how it was when we were married. Events were always wars.)

My children have all graduated from college. They are all working in the field that they studied. They are independent, fun to be with, funny and smart. They are far from perfect, but have insight into their own foibles. At no point did they feel unloved or rejected.

I think that there are some statistics about the outcome of children raised by single parents. They outcomes were higher for poverty and crime and poor health in kids raised under these circumstances. The conclusion was that this was caused by not having a father. It would be interesting to see new studies. My guess is that these outcomes are more related to poverty and lack of opportunity than the marital status of the parents. In a world where something like 50% of the children born are to unmarried parents, I suspect that there will be a real change in outcomes. When we see people who have more education and more opportunity (ie: not poor and minority) who commit to parenting even when not committing to one another, the data set may look very different.

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I was divorced when my daughter was 3. She does not remember us living together at all. We have a very close mother/daughter bond, she maintains a relationship with her father, and she is on good terms with her stepfather. She graduated college Cum Laude while working 2 jobs and lives on her own in NYC. She turned out very well, dare I say better than she might have if I had stayed in a marriage where there was no mutual love or respect. She learned independance, respect for self, and tough decision making skills. Divorce is not always an easy choice but sometimes it is the only choice.

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I have friends who are staying married for their child (and to save face in their “communityâ€). They rarely speak to each other, and when they do, it is only to yell at and belittle the other. They live in the same house but in separate bedrooms, socialize separately, can’t be civil to each other – but it’s for the best for their daughter if they stay married. Yup – way to teach your daughter what a healthy relationship looks like and how to sacrifice personal health and happiness for the sake of a role in an overly judgmental societal structure. When the wheels finally come off the bus (and it won’t be too much longer) the crash will be epic. Unfortunately, they will not listen to anyone outside of the community, so our advice has been dismissed.

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I'm not sure if this is exclusive to biblical/christian families or if it has a broader reach. But the context I usually hear it in is within a religious Christian home/marriage. The concept that divorce is terrible, it devastates a child, should be avoided at all costs and that all kids wish their parents would back together.

I don't understand where this idea come from, my parents divorced when I was 3, it never depressed or upset me. It was honestly the best decision for my family. I never once wanted them to get back together. That would of been hell. I don't understand why marriage, even a dysfunctional or abusive marriage is prized in religious circles over divorce.

I don't understand that either!!

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My parents divorced when I was about seven and my brother was about six. My dad remarried and I got a little sister when I was 14 and another one when I was nearly 17.

Now I'm 26, my brother is 25, my first sister is 12, and my youngest sister's 10th birthday is at the end of this month. My father is currently hooping it up with his mistress and divorcing my stepmother (the sisters' mother), which will probably force her out of her house. I'm having to face a lot of truths about how my father treats women, my own parents' divorce, how my father's misbehavior has affected myself and my siblings (particularly my brother, who sadly seems to be like my dad in just about every way), and what family really means.

When this all first began, which was a few years ago, I hated divorce in general and tried to place equal blame. However, I realized as it panned out that my dad is just a dickbag of a partner (and not all that much better of a father). I realized that my mother is finally happy with her partner (my stepfather). I realized that my stepmother, whom I've loved since I was eight, will always be family whether it's legal or not. And perhaps most importantly, I realized that my husband and I- who have been together since before the youngest sister was even born- can model good relationship practices and be there to counter all of my father's bullshit.

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I don't remember my parents being together, but my first memory is being in the court room during the divorce. He was an alcoholic and abusive, it was for the best.

Sometimes it really is for the best. Yes, it affects the kids, or it did me. Once I grew up, I realized she really didn't have as choice.

A friend of mine is going through a pretty nasty divorce, and I want to whop that wife of his upside the head. But anyway..

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I never understood this, either. My parents stayed together for money reasons until I was 14, separated, but then got back together for a variety of reasons when I was 18. My dad was an asshole who yelled and screamed and hit and then liked to pretend that we were a '50s sitcom family (not even kidding. He tried to push me to be a cheerleader and told his friends that I was boy-crazy... And I'm a lesbian). He's gotten better, but I had always wished they were divorced when I was younger, and when they separated I was relieved, not devastated.

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I think a lot has to do with how the parents handle the divorce. My parents' marriage was fairly horrible but considering that he was an alcoholic and my mother is a total control freak, that nitpicks (I have a lot of self esteem problems from this. Nothing I do is ever good enough) it was probably good that they were married because she had him to direct her crap at, at least for us kids. I wonder what would have happened if my father married a more supportive woman but oh well. One time she asked my brother and me who we would live with if they got divorced and we both said my father, which stopped that idea.

My husband's parents got divorced - he was the baby that was supposed to save their marriage. His mother is mentally ill, and has polypharmacy problems, is a hoarder as well as being an alcoholic. His father was a philandering drunk that was just an awful father. (My husband lived with his dad and his father's girlfriend for a year, and he can't remember either one of them speaking to him that year.) Oh, the stories I could tell! Anyway, he might have been better off if his parents had stayed together because then someone would have made sure that my husband went to school, and he wouldn't have had one of the world's worst stepfathers. But it wouldn't have been a picnic any way you slice it.

We have mostly a functional relationship, and it is so freaking od to be raising kids with really good self esteem and confidence.

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Oh Lawd, had my daughter's dad and I stayed together, either he or I would be dead. Not to mention, I don't stay married to adulterers.

She's now almost 16 and a delight. Seriously, she's successful at school and life.

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That idea is a bit rich coming from a group of people who occasionally hold the idea that infants manipulate their caregivers and thus must be subjected to corporal punishment and conditioning.

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My parents divorced when I was 9 and my little sister was 7. We hoped for years that they would get back together. And then, when I was 19, they did. And it was weird. Really weird. And now, 15 years later again, I sometimes wish they were still apart. Looking at their relationship with grown up eyes and grown up experiences behind me, I don't think they're happier for it.

I don't think it's divorce, necessarily, that causes problems. I think it's the ability of the divorced parents to properly co-parent that makes or breaks a child of divorce.

I have a friend who is going through divorce right now. She has a 4 year old son and she left her husband because of increased aggression towards her and the child. She's fighting to get full custody, but finances and the court system are causing it to take much longer than she would have hoped. So, until everything is settled, she gets to send her child to his father's house every week. When he comes home to her, he is usually unwashed, aggressive and talking about naked ladies from the violent and inappropriate movies his father watches with him in the room. She tells me that she sometimes wishes she had never left her husband because then she could protect and shield her son from what he sees when he's with his father. I try to remind her that if she had stayed, she might be able to protect him from some of it, but he would still see the violence in the form of how his father treats his mother. In her case, I don't think the divorce is what is causing the kid problems. The problem is that his father is a Class A douchenugget.

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Good parents are good parents regradless of their martital status

Bad parents are bad parents regradless of their martital status.

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I think a lot has to do with how the parents handle the divorce.

I don't think it's divorce, necessarily, that causes problems. I think it's the ability of the divorced parents to properly co-parent that makes or breaks a child of divorce.

Good parents are good parents regardless of their marital status

Bad parents are bad parents regardless of their marital status.

My parents divorced before my first birthday. Mom had already moved on but Dad wasn't ready to let go, so at first he didn't see us kids unless his mother shamed him into it, which wasn't often. Then he married a woman who insisted he be a part of his kids lives, because her first husband died and she was left with children who could never see their father again.

My father still had us visit as little as possible, claiming that my mother wouldn't let us see him. As I grew older I realized that any time he was pressured to ask for us, my mother let us go. It worked out, I guess. I still remember when I was about 6 or 7, I met a girl my age at a park and felt sorry for her when she said she only had one mom and dad, and they both lived with her. In my world you had two of each.

Growing older, my parents abandoned the "Keep Sweet" attitude and when visiting my father I'd hear all the stories about how horrible my mother was. My mother did the same if we mentioned my father. To this day, they're both in their 70's and they'll still go on the attack.

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Sweeping generalizations that divorce is always the answer or never the answer do no one any good.

Sometimes divorce is absolutely the right choice and sometimes finding a way to stay married is absolutely the right choice. It all depends on the situation/people involved. I think that a child whose parents divorce but who remain reasonable and who put the needs of the child first will do better than the child of parents who stay together but who spit venom at each other all day. Some children deal with change poorly - these children might need more care and attention (and possibly professional counselling) but some children will deal with the change well. It all depends on the individuals and situation.

Once again fundies fail at context and nuance.

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I am a child of divorce. My parents were those who, once they divorced, it was a relief. At the same time, my Dad lived in another country, so we didn't really have a relationship. I do think being raised by a single parent is hard, especially when there is little to no support system. My mom worked long hours, and it was just my sister and I home alone. This allowed us both to get into a lot of trouble. I have a teen daughter myself now, and I'm so thankful my husband is here to back me up on the discipline. I can only imagine what it would be like trying to raise a defiant and manipulative teen without help.

It seems like the current trend is to do 50/50 custody of the kids. I'm not a big fan of that arrangement, I think it's unfair to have kids bouncing back and forth between houses every week. Imagine if you as an adult had to live out of 2 homes. That has to be rough. My son has a friend whose parents are divorced and do 50/50 custody, to further complicate things the mom has a boyfriend and he has kids. So basically the kids live out of 3 homes--because Mom takes the kids to "live" over at boyfriend's house on her weekends. At some point it just becomes insane. I think kids need stability, and they need one place to lay down their head and call home. If I ever got divorced I would not seek 50/50 because I don't think it's fair to the kids. I think sometimes what's best for the kids get lost amongst what's fair for the grown ups.

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Sweeping generalizations that divorce is always the answer or never the answer do no one any good.

Sometimes divorce is absolutely the right choice and sometimes finding a way to stay married is absolutely the right choice. It all depends on the situation/people involved. I think that a child whose parents divorce but who remain reasonable and who put the needs of the child first will do better than the child of parents who stay together but who spit venom at each other all day. Some children deal with change poorly - these children might need more care and attention (and possibly professional counselling) but some children will deal with the change well. It all depends on the individuals and situation.

Once again fundies fail at context and nuance.

Agree!

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Issues often relate more to the relationship itself than to the divorce itself.

Exposure to a toxic relationship between the parents is harmful to children, whether or not the parents are (still) married. Just as staying married does not always mean that the marital relationship is healthy, getting divorced does not always end the dysfunctional relationship.

In some cases, the separation allows the physical distance needed for safety, or allows some peace from a constant atmosphere of hostility and fighting. I've seen cases where the children visibly improve after the separation, because the home life was so bad with the parents together. In my particular area, it's quite common to have situations like the "War of the Roses" movie, because property values are relatively high and many couples cannot easily afford to separate if they want to stay in the same area and maintain the same lifestyle. A physical separation which comes after years of living separate-under-the-same-roof can be a relief.

In some cases, however, the separation or divorce does not end the hostility. We have cases where a spouse is fueled by anger, hurt, jealousy and/or loss of control, and they are determined to lash out. Kids can be hurt if there are endless unwarranted calls to police or child protection officials, if parents are obviously fighting in the school, if they are exposed to a never-ending stream of venom against the other parent, if they are expected to emotionally support a parent who is heart-broken by infidelity or the break-up, if parents share WAY too much information with them about the other parent, if they are given the message that only mommy/daddy truly loves them and that the other parent cannot be trusted, if access is denied for stupid reasons, etc. Kids can also be hurt if one or both parents refuses to stop engaging in war - if a parent refuses to anything that would allow a reasonable financial settlement, if they refuse to settle a custody battle even after losing a trial, etc. At the most extreme end, I have had clients who saw court appearances as potential "dates" with their ex, to the point that the other side would ask for police officers to prevent any stalking. Kids can be hurt if a parent is so overwhelmed by a sudden separation/infidelity that they cease to function, or become suicidal. Kids can be hurt is every single decision and aspect of parenting becomes a potential battle ground - some kids will learn to avoid any request or source of conflict at all, while older kids sometimes learn to pit on parent against the other.

As for the physical separation/divorce itself - the main drawback for the children is financial. The same amount of assets must be split between two parents, and the same amount of income must now support 2 households. I found that this wasn't a serious issue for my poorest clients - who had no money to begin with - or my wealthiest, but it's a serious issue for the young, newly middle-class families that worked hard and took large mortgages to afford a starter home in the burbs. They barely make their monthly expenses before separation, and afterward there simply isn't money available to establish 2 separate homes, since there is very little cheap rental housing in the burbs, and no way to qualify for a mortgage with half of the income. Any money spent on lawyers and court battles is an additional drain on resources. At its most extreme, a friend of mine with an insanely bitter divorce spent half a million dollars on legal fees - his house and savings are gone, and his parents had to mortgage their home.

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It seems like the current trend is to do 50/50 custody of the kids. I'm not a big fan of that arrangement, I think it's unfair to have kids bouncing back and forth between houses every week. Imagine if you as an adult had to live out of 2 homes. That has to be rough. My son has a friend whose parents are divorced and do 50/50 custody, to further complicate things the mom has a boyfriend and he has kids. So basically the kids live out of 3 homes--because Mom takes the kids to "live" over at boyfriend's house on her weekends. At some point it just becomes insane. I think kids need stability, and they need one place to lay down their head and call home. If I ever got divorced I would not seek 50/50 because I don't think it's fair to the kids. I think sometimes what's best for the kids get lost amongst what's fair for the grown ups.

I totally agree that 50/50 isn't great, it doesn't establish enough stability. There are ways around it, but some parents balk at it- like two nights a week and every other weekend with the non custodial parent (which ends up being over 40%), and the child still gets to sleep and wake up in the same house most nights. When I was a teen, there was a dad I used to babysit for, he'd go out often when it was his weekend with the kids and leave them with a sitter at night.

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The one other situation where children can be affected by the physical separation/divorce itself, and not just the relationship problems, is where immigration or other distance issues come into play.

If a parent faces possible deportation, that obviously affects the child. A parent may not qualify to remain in the country.

This can also be a big issue in military families, where a divorced spouse may not be able to remain on a base.

In some cases, the child may face the loss of the home that they have always known, or loss of the primary caregiver. Either way, they may also experience the loss of the other parent in their lives if there is no practical way for frequent visits to take place.

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My parents divorced when I was 6 or 7 and like many of you, it was absolutely the best decision for our family. Not only did it finally put an end to the fighting, but it turned my mom and dad back into good parents again because THEIR relationship improved immensely without the pressure of trying to maintain a marriage that neither of them wanted to be in. So I can't disagree more with the comment that "good parents are good parents regardless of their marital status." The memories I have of my parents while they were married are nearly all negative, but post-divorce there was a complete 180.

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