Divorce Anger Lasts
By CWK Network Producer
“It’s odd because sometimes I see other people’s parents who are divorced but who still talk on the phone or are still friendly in some way.”
– Kelly Schoenecker, who says her parents still don’t get along, 18 years after their divorce.
Kelly Schoenecker’s views about her parent’s feeling for one another aren’t positive.
“For 18 years that I have witnessed, they can’t even get along,” she says.
She was only one when her parents divorced, but now, more than 17 years later, she says the bitterness and fighting still haven’t ended.
“You always feel like okay, I’m on my mom’s side today, or I’m on my dads side today,” she says. “And my dad’s right, or my mom’s wrong and you feel like you have to be on one side or the other. And it’s kind of like you have to turn yourself against one.”
According to a study by the National Marriage Project, one-in-three children reported being caught in the middle between angry parents more than five years after a divorce.
“The child feels like ‘Why am I still in the middle of this war,’” says Intervention Specialist Winny Rush, M.E.D.
And the damage to the child can be severe. Almost one quarter of children of divorced parents have drug problems, or suffer from depression as teenagers.
“You’re creating a very emotionally isolated person who has trouble trusting and interacting intimately with another person,” says Rush.
“It’s very hard to believe that any relationship that I find is going to be lasting,” says Schoenecker.
Experts say it’s hard, but every day divorced parents should ask themselves a question: “Am I role-modeling the characteristics and the attributes that I want my child to be raised with?” says Rush. “Regardless of how you feel about your ex-partner, don’t disparage them. Be a positive role model. I know you’re hurt. You’ve got to keep in mind that your child needs you and they need you to be supportive of the other person regardless of how you feel about them.”
Schoenecker adds, “Even though I know that they’re still angry with each other, I know that they know down deep that the other one is my parent too and that they love me just as much, and I should love them just as much.”
Side Effects of Divorce on Children
Divorce takes a tremendous toll on everyone involved. However, no one may be affected as much as the children. Consider the following – children from fatherless homes are:
- Over four-and-a-half times more likely to commit suicide
- Over six-and-a-half times to become teenaged mothers.
- Over 24 times more likely to run away.
- Fifteen times more likely to have behavioral disorders.
- Six times more likely to be in a state-operated institution.
- Nearly 11 times more likely to commit rape.
- Almost seven times more likely to drop out of school
- Fifteen times more likely to end up in prison while a teenager.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to remember the main focus during divorce – the feelings of their children. While the parents may have negative feelings toward each other, it is very important for those feelings not to be directed at the children. Kids whose parents are divorcing have enough questions and concerns without wondering if their parents are mad at them. Ask yourself the following questions and be mindful of your actions and attitudes around your children.
- Do I make negative remarks about the other parent?
- Do I allow friends and family to make negative remarks about my co-parent?
- Do I stress to my child how much I miss them when they leave with my co-parent?
- Do I ask my child questions about my co-parent’s business?
- Do I discuss child support or financial problems with or around my child?
- Do I refuse to sit nearby my co-parent at school or athletic events?
- Do I refuse to allow my child to join my co-parent at events if escorted by me?
- Do I refuse to allow my child to transfer important items to my co-parents’ home?
- Do I give my child messages that I am a victim because of my co-parent?
- Do I use my child as a messenger instead of talking directly to my co-parent?
- Do I attempt to limit phone contact from my co-parent?
- Do I imply that my child may not be safe with my co-parent?
- Do I allow my child to meet my emotional needs?
- Do I imply that my child can choose where to live when they get older?
Also, when dealing with communication with your child, keep in mind the following:
- Age doesn’t matter; the child must still know what’s happening.
- The parent who tells the child should be the “primary” parent (usually the mother). This will lessen the trauma.
- It is unhealthy for the child to feel that there is a good and bad parent.
- The parent must explain that the child is not responsible for the divorce.
- The parents should only inform their children about the divorce after they have reached a final decision.
- The best time to tell children about the divorce is when the parents can be with them for a long period of time, like on a non-school day.
- The parent may want to give the children some idea as to what will happen in the future, such as school and living arrangements.
- The children do not need to know the reasons behind the divorce, except that they are not a reason.
- The parents should ask their children regularly if they have any questions