The divorce rate in our country is staggering and there are more children being raised in one parent households today than ever before. Yes relationships don’t work and some people feel that divorce is the only option but the children are the ones who have the greater challenge and in the end, suffer more. I’m not speaking about marriages not working because of abuse, adultery, or infidelity; I’m speaking about couples that just aren’t able to get along.
Couples that leave a marriage usually have a laundry list of complaints. Their bitterness, immaturity, and lack of respect for one another has a major affect on those most innocent; the children. Because of their anger, frustration, and pride they use their children in ways that are damaging and in ways that alter who they are and who they’ll become. With hundreds to choose from the following examples come from people that have previously or are currently going through a divorce.
Lack of Accountability-By nature humans have a need to always be right, never wanting to be at fault. It takes two to make a marriage work but it also takes two to sabotage it. Because of their need to want to be the “good guy”, parents blame each other for the divorce and the things that led to it. When they speak to their children they make it a point to discredit, verbally tear down, and make their children look at the other parent in a bad way. They tell them that “it was all mom’s fault that this happened” or “if dad wouldn’t have done this or that we would still be together”. Parents don’t realize it, but not only are they hurting their child presently, they are setting the stage for a difficult future. In addition, since neither parent is holding themselves accountable for their part, they are ultimately teaching their children that it’s ok to not take responsibility for their actions. How can children grow up and succeed if they don’t hold themselves accountable? It’s our job as parents to teach them, not just by telling them, but also modeling it for them through our own behavior.
Gathering Information-In high school it was common to try to get information about a certain love interest. For example if one of the girls liked a certain boy she would have one of her friends find out everything she could about him, then report back with what she discovered. Yes it was childish but typical teenage behavior. Unfortunately some adults haven’t grown up; they’re still sending someone to gather information but this time it’s about their soon to be ex-spouse. Sadly they aren’t sending one of their peers, they’re sending their 10 year old daughter. Although fathers are equally to blame, there were more women that admitted using their children in this way. Their motivation was to obtain information that would be valuable in court or to see if they had been replaced by another woman and if so whom? Any way you look at it, this shouldn’t be done. Not only is it emotionally cruel to involve the child, but they’re also being taught to behave unethically.
Forming an Alliance-During a divorce, things can get really messy and nine times out of ten, sides have to be chosen. Unfortunately parents want the child to side with one of them and are ruthless to make that happen. During conversations with the child, the parent will unearth situations that happened in the past, with the intent of winning the child’s favor. Whether it’s manipulating the truth or completely lying, they’ll stop at nothing.
Too Much Information-Parents should be parents and allow their children to be children. Kids should be laughing, playing, and enjoying their childhood because they can only experience it once. However parents seem to loose sight of that while they are in litigation. Or should I say a legal “battle”. I spoke with a 17 year old boy that told me when his parents were going through a divorce, his father actually kept him updated on what was happening in court. In other words he gave him a play by play of how much child support was ordered, what visitation rights were obtained, and even who was going to keep the house and the dog. The look on the boy’s face showed his heart ache and when I looked at his eyes I didn’t see those of a teenager but those of a middle-aged adult. He knew more about the divorce than he should have. It was obvious that although his parents divorced when he was 10, he still carried the burden. When I asked him what he may have learned through the experience he said that he learned how to hate, he learned how to be heartless, and he learned that he would never get married; amazing things to hear from a 17 year old child.
With resources such as counselors, court appointed mediators, and friends, children should never be used or put in the middle of a divorce. As parents our main goal is to nurture our children through support, encouragement, and love. Although divorce is a reality in some families it doesn’t have to be destructive. Both adults can bow out gracefully and put the past behind so their children can have a positive and successful future.