For the Sake of the Children - Part 2
Barrington Brennen, 2005
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
or write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or
or call 242-327-1980 or 242-477-4002