Divorce Part 4 -  For the Sake of the Children -- Articles By Barrington H. Brennen


For the Sake of the Children - Part 2
By Barrington Brennen, 2005


Question: Dear Barrington Brennen, I am going through divorce and my children are right in the middle of it. My friends are telling me to stay with my husband at least for the children’s sake. They feel that the divorce will do great harm to them. How can I stay when my husband has terribly abused me and the children both emotionally and physically for more than ten years. He has also threatened to kill me at least three times. My oldest child who is twelve is suffering greatly from all the pain. Are my friends right? Should I really stay?

Answer: Last week, I presented some ways in which abusive fathers and mothers affect their children’s lives. I also mentioned that divorce may be the beginning of healing for abused children and spouses. The truth is that both abuse and divorce are devastating to children’s lives. Psychologist Wallerstein believes that many people who experience divorce as children have trouble establishing satisfying lives and stable relationships as adults. According to Wallerstein, "this is because children of divorce are frequently depleted rather than nurtured by their upbringing."

However, the upheaval children experience is usually temporary if parents do not continue the "fights" but find ways of easing the effects of divorce on their children.

Here are several things parents can do to ease the effects of divorce on their children. 1) Make sure the children know they are not the cause of the divorce and that the divorce doesn’t mean that parents don’t love them. 2) Make sure the information is clear about what sort of arrangements are going to be made and what’s going to happen. 3) Answer questions children have, giving clear and honest answers. 4) Take the children’s lead. Give as much information the children need to know and can understand. 5) Take post-divorce therapy (counseling) if the divorce has affected the parenting of the children.

Divorce-related life changes which may affect children also include household moves; loss of friends; a new school; a strange, sometimes poorer and more dangerous neighborhood.

A more serious situation would be that children feel rejected by their parents. This would occur when parents cannot provide the affection, attention, and discipline because they are absorbed in and drained by their own problems.
It is important that parents do not talk to their children about plans for divorce until it is certain that the divorce will take place. Do not drag your children into disputes that may look threatening to the marriage, but may not really lead to divorce.

Unfortunately, many divorces and separations in the Bahamas are a result of dishonesty and sexual infidelity of a spouse. Sometimes the spouse lives with another partner although they are still married, creating a very difficult situation for the children. Often children are caught in the middle between the "lover" and their own parents.

Children are forced to make value judgments and decisions that are frustrating and difficult to understand. Children are forced to watch immoral acts and manipulative events. They are often kept up late at night because of the unreasonable sleeping arrangements and often are not able to complete homework or other school assignments. This type of behavior is very unfortunate and devastating to the children. It reveals the inconsiderate and selfish attitude of the parents or parent involved. This usually happens when parents are driven by their own hormones, sexual appetite, and selfish desires.

David Write, associate professor of family studies at Kansas State University, states that: "If two parents are really dedicated to the quality of life for their children and they are really focused on the needs of the children, they may divorce and do an excellent job co-parenting subsequent to a divorce. In that case the effects of the divorce on the children might be minimal. On the other hand, you may have parents who for various reasons are caught up in their own struggles and not able to attend to the needs of children. They may not even divorce at all, leaving more negative effects on the children than in the case when parents divorce."

If parents divorce as friends and not as enemies, then that will certainly ease the effects of divorce on the children. How can a husband and wife in a bitter marriage end in a friendly divorce? This is certainly difficult, but it is possible. This is more important when children are involved.

A friendly divorce is possible when both partners: 1) Deal with their anger toward each other. Seek professional counseling to help during this challenging time in their lives. 2) Agree to let the past be the past. (Since they are divorcing there is no gain in always digging up the past. They should move on with their lives.) 3) Humble themselves and forgive each other. Forgiveness is more important for the one who is forgiving than the one who is being forgiven. Unless a person can release the one who has hurt him from judgments, healing will not take place. The anger will turn into bitterness, which may lead to severer stress that may cause physical and psychological illnesses. What is so ironical about this is that the one who has caused the pain may forget about the problem and go on living her/his life while the victim remains in the deep pit of self-pity, anger, and frustration. 4) Be willing to admit the mistakes made and be open to change or adjust for future mental and social well-being. 5) Admit that cooperation, civil behavior, and attitude after the marriage are very important for the emotional, spiritual, and social health of the children.

Ongoing fights and bitterness will certainly damage the lives of growing children. Although parents are not living together, children may still know when the battles are raging.
It is important that all married couples realize that divorce itself is painful; therefore, one who is considering divorce must take the steps of planning for children and the future very, seriously.
Barrington H. Brennen is a marriage and family therapist and board certified clinical psychotherapist, USA. Send your questions or comments to barringtonbrennen@gmail.com  or write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit www.soencouragement.org    or call 242-327-1980 or 242-477-4002

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April 26, 2000, TAGnet/NetAserve / Network Solutions

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