There has long been a debate about whether it is a better decision to stay in a marriage for the benefit of the children in the case of troubled relationships with partners who would otherwise divorce. According to The Journal of Family Medicine and Disease Prevention, growing up in a stressful family dynamic can be more harmful to a child than the affects of a divorce. When there is abuse, the decision should be simple. Whether against a spouse or a children, abuse should not be tolerated as it's lasting affects are far more difficult to recover from than the adjustment to a divorce.
The challenge is posed when relationship issues impede on the parents' ability to focus on the critical developmental needs of the kids. Whether there is arguing or a complete lack of engagement between spouses, kids can sense discord. Very Well Family reports that some kids report relief when parents finally divorce, as tensions and conflict are removed and the child's development, physical and emotional stability becomes the priority.
Parents who are preoccupied with their own issues tend to neglect the needs of their children. The key is to determine if both parties are capable of being the best parent to the child in or outside of the marital relationship. According to Good Therapy, "Children do much better when their parents are happy and doing well, physically and mentally. Sometimes finding this state of well-being and happiness requires ending the marriage or partnership." Our next generation refers to us for an example of what a healthy relationship looks like; it is our job to produce just that.
Clearly, there will be pain in the adjustment period. The key to making this a successful transition for your kids is communication. If dissolution is the best course of action, it is imperative (except in the case of abuse) that both parties work together and provide a united front, support each other in parenting decisions and put personal grievances aside. Therapist Kathy Hardie-Williams also reports some positive outcomes for children of divorce, including:
- Better coping skills, resilient and adaptable characteristics
- Preparation for adulthood resulting from new responsibilities (self-sufficient)
- Develop ability to identify and support emotions (empathy)
- More quality time with each parent
- Recognition of work and challenges required in maintaining relationships
In no way am I suggesting that divorce is the suggested (or better) option. That is a personal choice and each situation is vastly different. Rather, I do want you to be confident that the success of your child is not dependent on the institution of marriage. Whether married, separated or divorced the key is to provide stability, security and most of all love. Teach them what healthy looks like physically, mentally and emotionally, for yourself, for them and for the other parent.
*This nonfiction piece is based on observation and research. I do not claim to be an expert in areas of public health, academia, mental health, or science, nor am I providing professional medical or legal advice. Opinions shared are expressly drawn from personal experience.