Some miserably married couples stay together for the kids, but the truth is, conflict hurts children more than divorce itself. According to divorce researcher Mavis Hetherington, many of the emotional and behavioral problems divorced children suffer are actually present before the marriage ends.
In her 2002 longitudinal study, Hetherington found that 75% – 80% of children adjust to divorce and grow up to live productive lives. The adult children of divorce who don’t fare well are more likely to have had behavioral issues when their parents were together, and divorce simply compounded those problems. “In other words,” writes Hetherington, “the psychologically poor get poorer after divorce while the rich get richer.”
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons children can be better off with divorced parents than growing up in an in tact, yet high-conflict home.
- Children stop worrying that their parents are going to get divorced. Samantha was 10 years old when her parents sat her down and told her they were getting divorced. They did – but not until she was eighteen. Now in her 50s, Samantha says she wishes her parents had split up when she was younger, so she didn’t have to spend half her childhood with the threat of impending divorce hovering over her like a dark cloud.
- The fighting stops. Most marriages go through rough patches, but if conflict permeates the household, children will suffer. In cases where volatile parents consistently argue in front of the kids, divorce is a preferable option to a childhood spent dodging verbal gunfire, or actual physical violence.
- Parents can focus on parenting. When the plane goes down, you have to put your own oxygen mask on before you put on your children’s mask. Why? Because if you pass out, so you will your kids! Think about it: if a marriage is draining your emotional reserves, you are going to have less to give to your children. Although spouses are never truly divorced if they have children together, ending a dysfunctional marriage can free up psychological energy that will benefit kids and result in more present and effective parenting.
- Parents have the opportunity to model healthy relationships. Children learn how to treat others by watching adults. They will not learn how to maintain healthy relationships when their parents treat each other with contempt and are unable to resolve conflict. Adults who don’t rebound into another bad marriage, but take the time to work on their own issues post-divorce, have the potential to model healthy relationships with new partners.
The truth is, not every marriage can — or should – be saved. If divorcing couples can work together to be good-enough co-parents, their children can grow up to be happier than if they’d spent their childhood living in a war zone.
How can you make your divorce as easy on your kids as possible? Our attorneys are skilled at creating legal solutions that are positive and low-stress for everyone involved. Please contact us to schedule your free consultation with one of our family attorneys