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Friday, May 25, 2012

How Amicable Divorces Can Hurt Children

Sometimes I wonder if amicable divorces might result in more distress for children than angry ones, at least when the anger involved is based on outrageous and clearly unacceptable behaviors on the part of one or both parents. In such circumstances, children can clearly understand the reason for the divorce and may even feel genuine relief when it happens.

But when two otherwise loving, supportive parents call it quits and go about insisting on having a nice, friendly and painless divorce, children are confused. Why can’t these nice people simply work things out, just a they expect their kids to do when they’re not getting along?

In the introduction to his book "Helping Your Kids Cope With Divorce the Sandcastles Way" (all about the virtues of amicable divorce), M. Gary Neuman opens with, "Why do couples divorce? Usually because one or both partners believe that ending the marriage will free them to create happier, emotionally healthy lives for themselves and their children." Neuman then goes on to make the point that how parents handle their divorce has everything to do with how well children will deal with it.

There is of course a lot of truth to that, and yes, many children do very well in spite of their parents choosing to dismantle their family as they have known it. But I can't help wonder whether most partners are motivated to quit primarily because they only want what's best for them and their children. I also question the premise that a marital breakup doesn't have to be any more traumatic than, say, a bad house fire or a move to a different school district.

From my observation, with some clear exceptions in the case of abuse, addiction or adultery, most divorces result from abusive fights that have little to do with wise, prayerful and careful decision-making. Just as many individuals who choose to end their lives in suicide have come to rationalize that this will free them and their loved ones from an intolerable burden--and that everyone will recover and be none the worse for it--so many couples justify their “wed-icide” as the only viable solution.

But is that true? And does that make sense to those who have to deal with the aftermath?

I don’t think so.

For an additional perspective on divorce check out my May 10 blog.
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