Myths About How Divorce Affects Children
It’s almost impossible to go through a divorce without having preconceived notions about it. Divorce can be difficult for everyone involved, but it can be especially difficult when children are involved. It’s easy to become emotional when your marriage seems to be falling apart. You have so many questions, you feel so many different emotions. One minute you feel panic, another minute you feel anger and frustration, the next you feel betrayal. But the truth of the matter is that you aren’t alone. Your children are probably already being affected by it too!
There are many myths about divorce and how it will make your life easier. In some ways, it will make your life easier, but in others, it can make it more complicated. Which means that in order to help simplify your life, you have to separate the divorce facts from the divorce myths.
MYTH 1: It’s done when we have the court paperwork
This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Just because you are holding the court documents in your hands, it doesn’t mean that your life as a parent will suddenly become easier. Sure, you have a visitation schedule and a structure of holidays where you both can share your child’s time. But you are far from done. When a child[ren] is involved, you can’t just walk away from your ex. You have a responsibility as a parent and coParent to work together for the child’s benefit. Deciding on things like when and where to send him/her to school, who will pick the child up, who will take him/her when one of you is ill or can’t get out of work. The list of things that must be decided are nearly endless. Caring for your child never stops, and unless both coParents decide to cooperate with each other the battle between them will continue.
MYTH 2: It’s a competition and I must win
Beware of the parent who thinks, “I will be better than my ex, and I will win.” Everything about this mindset is selfish and very destructive to a family, and especially to the children involved. Remember, no parent can be the winner when a child’s emotional stability is in jeopardy.
One of the most frustrating situations I ever experienced is when I wanted to take my sons and my husband to see a new Marvel movie. As soon as I mentioned I bought the tickets my eldest son started to cry. He said, “But Dad will get mad at me if I go with you. He hates it when I go see movies with you first. He will be so angry with me.” I was clearly upset that my son was crying, but I was even more upset that his dad made him scared of going to a movie with me first. My ex had a mindset of, “I have to take them to the movie first, or I lose.”
Instead of jumping on the phone and screaming at my ex, I decided to take the high road. There was no “winning” by taking my son to the movie, and there was no winning by not taking him either. My son lost because he was unable to go to the movie with me unless he wanted his father to get upset. In these situations, it may seem best to want to beat the other side but it won’t help the child’s state of mind.
MYTH 3: Going to a family therapist won’t help
In my younger years, I found out that my parents were splitting up. As you can imagine it took a toll on me, one that I will never forget. After they split I went to see a therapist who helped me cope with my pain. I thought I had done something wrong. I was under the impression that my father no longer wanted to be with me. I thought I had done something to make him mad at me. Counseling helped me understand that I wasn’t responsible for my parents divorce. I often think about how different I would be if I hadn’t gone to see a therapist. I can’t imagine still believing that my parents separation was my fault.
I believe most parents are afraid of their children going to counseling because of how honest children are. They repeat everything they hear and in a lot of ways are far more intuitive to what is going on around them than parents tend to believe. Not taking your children, and in a perfect situation your ex and their significant other, to counseling is a bit selfish. There are so many benefits to be had by allowing your child the freedom to speak their mind in a safe setting when neither parent is around to impose any form of judgment.
MYTH 4: Boys are tougher than girls and can handle it better when their parents are separated
For years, many boys have been told that they need to be tough, not to cry, and to hold in their emotions. But I can tell you from personal experience that boys can and do feel terrible when parents get a divorce. My brother and I are good examples of this. Although my older brother was young, he was still considered to be the man of the house. Because he was older, he was also a little wiser than me. He saw how poorly my parents got along, and it bothered him deeply. He wanted to protect our mother. But at the same time, he wanted to impress, love, and be like our father. Boys are not unaffected by emotion, they are just told to hold it in. That is no reason to assume that a boy can handle divorce better than a girl could. In many ways, it might be more difficult to see the depth of pain they feel. All children are affected by divorce or separation of parents, it doesn’t matter the sex or the age.
MYTH 5: My child knows that it’s not about them
As a child of a separated family, I know this couldn’t be further from the truth. I consider my eldest son to be the more emotional one of my children. He was older and therefore witnessed more of the unpleasantries involved with our separation. Many times throughout my life he has said: “I’m sorry I wasn’t good enough to keep you together.” It’s heartbreaking to hear your child say that, but second, it is a clue to the fact that children are more intensely affected by divorce and separation than most would think.
When parents divorce, their children are thrown into a world they cannot relate to. They often become confused, withdrawn, and feel responsible for their parents splitting apart. As parents and coParents, it is our job to try and make sure that our children grow up to be happy, well-adjusted individuals. After all, whoever said that coParenting was easy?