A recent survey revealed that 40 percent of respondents claimed to be in an unhappy marriage. Twenty-five percent of respondents said they would stay in their marriage because of the children. As a culture, we are afraid of the effect of divorce on children, and perhaps more afraid of the effect of our relationship with children after the divorce. Children are concerned about those relationships as well.
You are right to be concerned about the kids, yet you can still go through the process if you remain are mindful and help them with some common fears:
“I won’t see Mom or Dad ever again” – When one parent receives primary physical custody over the other, you should immediately assure your children that your former spouse will be able to spend lots of time with them, and that you will consult them on important decisions about their lives.
“I don’t want to choose” – Children in a family where the marriage is an unhappy one may already be showing signs of choosing sides between on parent or the other. A divorce may cement the opinion that there is a “good” and “bad” parent. This will surely cause internal conflict as children often love both parents. It’s important to reduce outward displays of negative feelings toward your spouse when discussing things with kids.
“My parents hate each other” – Some older children are sophisticated enough to know that people who get along don’t hate each other. However, your behavior during a divorce may indicate otherwise. This is certain to cause children to feel worse than they already do.
“It’s all my fault” – It’s easy for kids to believe they did something to cause parents to split. They are naturally solipsistic at a young age, and out of concern, we may hide the reasons for the divorce from them. So then, they fill in the blanks. Both spouses should have a conversation about the split to assure kids that it stems only from the differences between the parents.
You don’t have to tell your children every detail about your divorce and why you and your spouse are calling it quits. However, you should leave them with assurances that both parents will always love them.