VICTIMS OF DIVORCE
Over the past two decades, divorce has become so widespread that it is now considered an unfortunate but inevitable risk of entering into a marriage. At the beginning of this century, getting divorced was a rare, immoral event and a social disgrace. Nowadays, ending a marriage is just a personal choice for most people regardless of its consequences, which exist especially when the children are involved.
One of the many consequences of divorce is that it becomes a crucial factor that affects the children. It is not an issue that only involves the couples. As the trends in marriages change, more and more children are negatively affected by the separations of parents. According to the information statistics on divorce, each year since the mid-1970s, more than 1 million children have experienced a family divorce. “It is projected that nearly half of all the babies born today will spend some time in a one-parent family which occurred as a result of single parenthood or divorce” (Shiono and Quinn 15). This fact indicates that the future of this world will be in the hands of the people who have lived through at least one divorce. That’s why, there should be more emphasis given to divorce and more solutions should be presented for the well being of our children.
Although the parents are not the only ones who should feel responsible of this social failure, the parents can accomplish the most efficient assistance. The cost of divorce to children is so high that there is a lot to be explored, such as how these costs might be minimized and what can be done to heal the scars. That’s why beside the parents, everyone should be held responsible to “maintain the childcare system while dissolving the marital system” (Furstenberg and Cherlin 28).
“The child has no say in drawing up the contract by which he or she comes into the world. Since the parents have all the power in this transaction, they also have the moral duty of making sure the contract is fair to the child” (Little 1).
The process of divorce and separation is very stressful in the life of a child. Most children go through anxiety, sadness, anger, aggression, sleep disorders and low academic achievements (Behrman and Quinn 3). It is important for parents to keep close watch on how their children cope and adjust to the divorce.
Many divorces are highly emotional can draw children into conflict. Some of the children going to a divorce may feel rejected by the departing parent. This feeling of rejection results in lowered self-esteem and depression. Some might even feel responsible for the divorce of their parents (Everett 11). Many of the children become involved in serious drug or alcohol abuse and have a difficult time establishing long-term relationships (Miller). Parents should keep in mind that it is difficult for many children to understand why their parents are not able to live together anymore (Johnston et al. 13).
One of the biggest problems that divorce brings to many parents is guilt. As a result of the parental guilt, people chose to stay together for the sake of their children. Research does not support this belief. It is not in the children’s best interests for the parents to stay together if there is a high chronic marital conflict. “A harmonious intact family is best for children but a harmonious divorced environment is better than a disharmonious intact family.” It is very damaging for children to witness dramatic parental conflict (Teyber 18). “There are some situations, especially those involving physical, sexual, or verbal abuse, where divorce is necessary and even beneficial to families” (Miller).
What becomes important after a separation is to find a way of helping children cope with divorce. Parents should try to diminish the negative effects of divorce on children. In order to make the process less painful for them, parents should encourage kids to talk as openly as they can about their feelings. Many clinicians believe that “the failure of parents to communicate with their children adds to the immediate burden of the divorce for children and contributes to the children’s sense of uncertainty” (Furstenberg and Cherlin 24).
The first two years following a separation are labeled as a crisis period for children and adults (Furstenberg and Cherlin 65). The crisis begins for children with shock, anxiety and anger. Children have two special needs during this period. First, they need additional emotional support and second, they need the structure provided by a reasonably predictable daily routine, (Teyber 63) such as, going to the same school, being able to eat at the same meal times, sleeping on regular basis, and similar playing activities each day. Unfortunately, many single parents cannot meet both of these needs all the time.
Another negative effect of divorce on children is the economical changes in the their lives. Divorced mothers and their children do not regain their standard of living for a long time after the breakup. If the mothers have not been in the job market, it takes a while before they can acquire the skills and experience needed to earn enough to support a family (Everett 100). Children must adjust to a declining economical power. A mother may be less available and her presence may be missed at home, if she has to work numerous hours to support the family. Children may also have to adapt to an apartment in an unfamiliar neighborhood, a different school, and new friends. This sequence of events occurs at a time when Children are greatly upset about the separation and need love, support and a familiar daily routine (Furstenberg and Cherlin 71).
The living arrangements of children are some of the important issues related to divorce, which cannot be summarized with the simple question of who has the custody. ” Overall, the results indicate that regardless of the living arrangements at the time of divorce, many children’s residence will change, particularly those living in the more complicated custody patterns” (Hughes 2)
A study supports that removing the negative label from the event of divorce and placing the responsibility on the quality of the family environment instead, makes a difference in terms of the effects to the family structure (Everett 81). Generally, the research findings suggest that divorce itself may or may not be a negative event, depending on “the degree of perceived family conflict.”
Children should have the right to love both parents without guilt or disapproval. They should be repeatedly told that the divorce is not their fault and be able to see both parents. Parents should not use children as messengers or force them to make adult decisions. Most of all, they should have a daily and weekly routine that is predictable and understandable to them and have consistent boundaries in each home (Everett 137).
“A critical factor in both short term and long term adjustment is how effectively the custodial parent, who usually is the mother, functions” (Teyber 142). Mothers who can cope with the disruption can be more effective parents. They can provide love, nurturing, consistent discipline and a predictable routine (Furstenberg and Cherlin 79).
There should be a low level of conflict between mothers and fathers and the children should have a continuing relationship with their noncustodial parent, who is usually the father. If the parent who lives away from the home maintains a good, consistent relationship with the child and relates reasonably to his former spouse, “the child may be spared the development of unhealthy reactions to divorce” (Gardner 36).
When parents are able to cooperate in childrearing after a divorce and when fathers are able to maintain active and supportive roles, children will be better off in the long run.
In order to protect children, parents must try to make the divorce process less painful. They should keep being honest, sensitive and self-controlled. An appropriate time should be given to children for adjustment. Children are better off when they are encouraged to talk and ask questions, express their feelings about the new situation. It may be appealing to tell a child to feel a certain way, besides as many others, children have a right to their feelings.
In the mean time, parents should avoid talking badly about their ex-spouses and keep those thought as privately as possible. “Bad-mouth makes the children feel even more caught in the middle. Kids may think, ‘If daddy or Mommy’s that bad, then they are a part of me, so I must be bad too.’” (Johnston 122)
People mistakenly think of divorce as an event that occurs all at once: a judge signs a decree and a married couple instantly becomes divorced. In fact divorce is actually a process that starts long before the day in court and the negative impacts of divorce may stay for a lifetime (Furstenberg and Cherlin 2). The process begins with a troubled marriage and comes to an end when one parent leaves home for good. The breakup involves emotional separation, legal arrangements, dividing economic assets and agreements about the parenting responsibilities along with the custody of children (Furstenberg and Cherlin 19). These parents may be busy while dealing with their own problems but they should realize that they are the most important people in their children’s lives.
In conclusion, it is quite obvious that divorce can be a very difficult event in one’s life causing many harmful damages to all of the family members. On the other hand, divorce is not the end of life; in fact it is a beginning that gives the chance to create a new, satisfying life. The only thing parents must keep in mind that while they are struggling in the process of divorce, their children are dealing with similar feelings and thoughts. Those are the times when they need the guidance and love most. Children are not responsible for who their parents are or for what they do. On the contrary, it is the parents and the community who are responsible for who their children are and for what they become.
Gardner, Richard A. The Parents Book About Divorce. New York: Doubleday, 1997.
Hughes, Robert Jr. “The Effects Of Divorce On Children.” Prevention Programs. Session#2. .
Johnston, Janet R. , et. al. Through The Eyes of Children. New York: The Free Press, 1997.
Little, Gordon S. “Marriage.” Home Page. 1 January 1999 .
Miller, Claudia. “Divorce Doesn’t Go Away.” Children’s Advocate. Jan-Feb. 1998. .
Shiono, Patricia H. and Linda Sandham Quinn. “Epidemiology of Divorce.” The Future of Children. 4 (Spring 1994): 1. 15-28. .
Teyber, Edward. Helping Children Cope With Divorce. New York: Macmillan, 1992.