SAN DIEGO, Jan. 21, 2016 – So often, married couples try to put off a divorce when they have young children, thinking it would be better for their kids if they put their problems aside and stayed together “for the sake of the children.”
In recent survey results from Great Britain, eight out of 10 young people ages 14 through 22 who have experienced parental problems, including separation and divorce, say they’d much rather have their parents split up if they are unhappy.
The study was conducted by the British family law organization Resolution in an effort to help the British government provide advice for divorcing parents. The findings are just as applicable across the Atlantic in the United States.
The overwhelming majority of those surveyed (82 percent) say that, in hindsight, they felt it ultimately turned out a lot better when their parents divorced versus staying together and being unhappy. Most said they would be very upset at the time, but realize later on it was for the best.
The kids surveyed provide valuable insight into what kids perceive and process during their parents’ divorce. Most don’t want to be shielded from what’s going on, and they want to have their feelings heard.
- Over 60 percent of the participants disagreed with the statement their parents made sure they were part of the decision-making process about the separation or divorce.
- Just under half said they didn’t understand what was happening during their parents’ separation or divorce.
- Half of young people said they had no say which parent they would live with or where they would live following their parents’ separation or divorce.
- Eighty-eight percent say it is important to make sure children do not feel like they have to choose between their parents.
- One in five kids surveyed said they sometimes felt that the separation or divorce was their fault.
- When asked what they’d most like to have changed about their parents’ divorce, 31 percent of young people said they wished their parents wouldn’t badmouth the other. Thirty percent wanted their parents to show more understanding for the kids in the middle of the process.
- On a positive note, half of the young people in the survey said their parents DID put their needs first during their separation or divorce.
Although “staying together for the sake of the kids” happens less than it once did, it still happens. Where the damage is done is exposing kids to unresolved parental conflict bubbling under the surface, sometimes for years. Most kids would rather have their parents get a divorce and let the family heal and move forward instead of remaining in a tension-filled household.
Yes, children are devastated by divorce and the loss of their family. But most do eventually come to grips with the situation, process it and adjust in a healthy way to a new family life, especially if separating parents take steps to ensure their children’s needs are met. Parents must work to reduce any negative fallout, such as criticizing the other parent or constantly arguing about issues. When parents allow kids as much as possible to have input into key decisions, such as where they will live, the kids regain a sense of control over their chaotic world.
Mental health professionals encourage divorcing parents to provide age appropriate information and explain what it will mean for their kids, which means making sure they feel secure, supported and understood during this difficult time. When kids are empowered, they cope much better.
The reality is that a lot of parents barely have a grip on their own emotions during a divorce. There is great value for parents getting advice from therapists who work with families and children and providing counseling for the family.
Those of us in the trenches strongly support parents choosing a consensual dispute resolution method of divorce such as collaborative divorce. Many times a child specialist gets involved from the start to be the children’s voice and empower them from the start of the process. It helps the parents maintain control over the divorce and ensure their children’s needs are addressed from their point of view.
When children can maintain relationships with both parents and with family members on both sides after a divorce, it is a significant victory for everyone involved. Sometimes it means parents have to be creative and cooperate to keep these family ties healthy. It’s best to focus on staying involved rather than griping about any unfairness for the adults.
Whether their parents are divorced or not, present or not, all children need to feel loved and cared for by both parents, have contact with both sides of the family, including siblings who might not live with them, be safe and secure, and enjoy a childhood free from the pressures of adult concerns. This is what it means to have a happy childhood today.
Myra Chack Fleischer serves as lead counsel for Fleischer & Ravreby in Carlsbad, California, with a focus on divorce, property, custody and support, settlement agreements, mediation, asset division and family law appeals. Read more Legally Speaking in Communities Digital News. Follow Myra on Twitter: @LawyerMyra. Fleischer can be reached via Google +
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