With Special efforts, divorce can work
Goldstream Gazette, July, 2009
My husband and I have decided to divorce and I am very worried about the impact on our three children. In your opinion can kids be okay coming through a divorce?
Certainly, children can be okay. Fortunately, as divorce is common enough today. In Canada, over 50 % of marriages end in divorce.
It’s not unusual in a school classroom to find children from split, single, or blended families. Many children talk of having “two moms and two dads,” “being at Dad’s for the weekend,” “playing with my step-brother’s play station,” etc. and they are okay.
I see many children doing just fine with their parents’ divorce.
But let’s consider another question: Exactly what does it take for children to be okay in the face of divorce?
Simply put, here’s what children need and want:
• Children need to know that the divorce was not their fault, that their parents conflict or unhappiness has nothing to do with them.
• Children want to know that no one parent is wrong or “bad” – that they don’t have to choose sides between their parents.
• Children need to know that they are, and will remain, special and important to both their parents.
• Children need to have their relationship with their mom and dad in a reliable structure of contact and know they can access either of their parents if they wish.
• Children want to know each of their parents are, and will be fine in their new life, and that each parent has some good will, even cares about, the other’s well being.
That’s all, Anne. Taking care of your children through divorce means taking care of these needs. Sounds relatively easy doesn’t it?
Well, it’s not. Divorce is a huge challenge.
When a couple dissolves their marriage they experience a range of difficult feelings – fear, disappointment, hurt, anger, loss, displacement, confusion. Along side these feelings, each person faces the urgent decisions that must be made together - decisions regarding the division of all they own, agreement for new financial arrangements, issues of custody, visiting, and new systems of support. As well they face the real actual changes or relocation divorce has required of them.
Then, with frequency, in order to settle the issues before them many divorcing couples enter the legal system. Here everything becomes even more raw and difficult.
Divorcing couples are regularly swept up, and can lose themselves in, the recriminations of the “for me to win, you must lose” posturing of the judicial system. A court case can be a lengthy, painful, and expensive process. As in any “battle”, divorcing couples commonly complete this legal process hurt, embittered, hostile.
Then, from this wounded place, they enter the future they now share as co-parents of their children. Can you see the problem here?
So Anne, to make divorce work is down-right difficult, an enormous challenge, and calls on the utmost of personal courage, maturity, and resourcefulness of the parents involved.
In my counselling practice I have met divorcing couples who are doing an awesome job of it. They are tackling these issues together as positively as possible, carving out a new life that is committed to everyone in the family being okay. I am moved and inspired by these parents, their integrity and commitment to the future for their children.
Can children be okay with divorce you ask? Yes they can. Yet you can bet making divorce work for your children will take everything you’ve got.
Anne, I wish you and your husband both the best in handling the changes you face together and encourage you to be sure to have lots of support in place for yourself and your children as you take on the challenges ahead.
For personal or couple counselling, for more information, or to register for a course - please contact Paul Beckow at The Victoria Family Institute.