Many parents anguish over divorce because of the impact on the children – will their living in two separate households rather than an “intact” family cause some type of permanent psychological or emotional distress?
In a revealing interview, the actress Anna Kendrick, whose parents divorced when she was fifteen, offers some key insight. “They taught me that staying together for the kids is the wrong approach. It perpetuates this warped idea of what a healthy relationship looks like.” She added, “I hate when people think you’re broken because your parents are divorced. I really reject the idea of staying together for the kids. If they’re growing up in a house that’s not healthy, it’s better to know that’s not the model of what marriage should be.”
Ms. Kendrick emphasized that parents should free themselves of the belief that they can “fool” their children into believing they have a good relationship, as children can see through the arguing or the pained faces or the tears that the reality is much worse. Instead of keeping children in a perpetual state of anxiety (about the future of the marriage) or confusion (about what qualifies as a “good” or “healthy” family environment), parents should be honest with themselves and their children and know that at a certain time it may simply be best to move on to a new chapter where parents live in two households rather than one household.
Psychologists support this approach born of experience. Studies indicate that when the parent feels happy and fulfilled, the parent will have a happy or happier child. Kids do not need to see or hear screaming matches or silent treatments; they need to see functional homes where they feel safe and accepted and attended to in a sufficient manner.
“Staying together for the kids” will not fool the kids, but curiously, continues to fool the parents. Some marriages last longer than they should in reliance on this excuse when in actuality other forces at work (perhaps a lack of funds or a secret extramarital affair) keep a couple together.
Finally, psychologists state that children of divorce will not automatically need to see a therapist or undergo counseling as a result of the divorce. Properly handled, children will adapt quickly if they see the new environment post-divorce produces harmony and tranquility and more quality time with each parent.
If you have questions about the impact of divorce on children, contact us – we can help.