Areas of Practice
A DIVORCE CAN & WILL AFFECT CHILDREN
If a marriage is clearly not working out, there’s much to be said for being able to admit a mistake, move on and consider a divorce, rather than spend years spiralling into quiet-or not so quiet-resentment and hostility, especially if it’s being done for the sake of the children. Children are sensitive and intelligent, and a lengthy, troubled marriage can be a very damaging psychological experience in the long term.
So while divorce may ultimately be a better option for everyone concerned, it has to be acknowledged right up front that no matter what you do, unless one spouse was incredibly abusive, and that is one of the grounds for divorce, by and large, children will be affected by a divorce in some negative fashion. That’s not to say that a divorce must necessarily be a traumatic event that permanently scars a child, but it is highly unlikely that any child will experience a divorce as a happy situation, and there will be some understandable, inevitable distress over the experience.
How much distress and for how long is something that, as a divorcing family, the couple must consider and manage.
Age Is Important
The way that a divorce is managed is largely determined by the age of the children involved. Teenagers, for example, especially those getting close to graduation and thinking about college, will require far less delicate handling, since they are mature to enough to understand the complexity of relationships, and would likely be preferred to be treated as adults in such a situation. Infants, of course, will have no understanding of what is happening, and therefore aren’t even really part of the equation at such an early stage.
However children that are old enough to communicate, but not yet old enough to understand the subtleties of human relationships will be particularly vulnerable during such a time.
This is when it is especially crucial to introduce the divorce into their lives as sensitively as possible. It is something that, ideally, should be done together. It should also be done calmly, free from arguments, or accusations hurled at each other, and it absolutely should not, in any way, imply that the child or children are somehow responsible.
While there is no good way or time to announce a divorce to children, there are ways defuse the situation and not make it any more upsetting than it needs to be. There are plenty of books and resources online as well as professional counselling services that can be of assistance of providing advice on how to approach a divorce with children. A lot of planning is necessary, not just after the announcement, but handling custody, health and education issues. All of this needs to meticulously addressed, in addition to working with an experienced divorce lawyer to ensure an amicable process with no complications or hostilities.
While there’s no such thing as a “fun” divorce for children, it is, with care and the proper focus, possible to minimize the anxiety and uncertainty they are bound to feel during this experience.