In today’s world, divorce is widely recognized as the second greatest hardship and cause of pain for adults, second only to the loss of a child.
With divorce having such a devastating impact on fully grown, psychologically mature adults, can you imagine what impact it has on children, who have zero skills for coping with gut-wrenching emotions and attachments?
Have you really thought about the damage you will cause your children if you go through with your divorce?
You know your kids better than anyone else. How are they going to handle the strain and turmoil their parents are going to find themselves in; or handle the fact that their whole world is breaking apart? Think of all the changes they will have to contend with. It’s a good idea to imagine the worst-case scenario as that will be most accurate.
This article will only confirm what you already suspected but hoped would not be true. Unfortunately, the reality is much worse than you imagined.
Through my experiences as a divorce mediator, and now a marriage healer, I’ve come to two monumental conclusions, both of which are provable beyond a doubt. They are:
- NO children escape from the pain and far-reaching burdens caused by their parents’ divorce.
- Saving your marriage is MUCH easier and a much more realistic option than people think.
Unfortunately, you won’t hear Marriage and Family Therapists mention this. A therapist from Orange County, California told me it’s now regularly taught in their psychology training that children of divorce will be okay, and no one should worry about them.
Kids won’t be fine. The data on that is abundant and unambiguous, and NO studies show a different outcome.
However, because the success rate of traditional marriage counseling is under 10%, divorce and the inevitable effects on the children of divorce have become accepted as a normal part of everyday life.
I guarantee that after you have read this, you won’t agree with that any more than I do. In this article, I will share with you the following:
- Statistics, along with my commentary
- The logical outcome for kids of divorce
- My experience with my own kids
- How to get out of the divorce funnel completely
The Bottom Line
For those who like to skip ahead, the bottom line is that your children are already adversely affected once divorce has been mentioned, and it will get worse from this point forward. Here’s why:
- When parents aren’t getting along, the consequence is that their children are not fully protected or nurtured. How could they be? The harmonious, protective environment they knew has been torn apart.
- Parents who are going through the divorce process itself cannot fully be there for their kids. And TV and video games are NOT a substitute for the attention parents provide under normal circumstances. Human children are not like the offspring of fish, turtles or insects. Human children are spiritual and psychological beings and in order to develop in a healthy way, they need to grow up in harmonious homes, protected from life’s storms.
- The new, convoluted, and unstable lifestyle that comes with having two households after a divorce is the worst imaginable scenario for children. We imagine they will have two “homes”, but it really translates into no home. They basically live out of their suitcases. This is the group of kids for which reliable and telling statistics exist.
The damage you do to your children is not due to a lack of love or money. Look at the children of divorced wealthy people, such as movie stars. They are far from shining examples of stability. In fact, statistically speaking, none of the demographics based on money, race, religion, education, or any other factor most people would imagine “should” affect kids, demonstrate no effect at all. An intact home is necessary for ALL children.
Everyone I’ve ever spoken with about this expressed regret at having gone through with the divorce because of the negative impact it had on their children. Not one told me it had been worth it.
No child is detached enough to shrug off the outer signs of trauma, much less the inner turmoil. Teachers easily recognize when a kid’s parents are breaking up. They have seen their shining star kids so dramatically impacted that it would make you cry.
Kids are crippled for life by the turmoil caused by missing their parents. But worse still, it doesn’t end there. As adults, they pass on the residual psychological impacts to their children! And to their children’s children, much the same way concentration camp survivors or ex-combat veterans impact their kids for generations to come. The biggest difference is that divorce is a parents’ choice.
You don’t have to get a divorce. Most parents, unlike camp survivors and vets, can choose to stay married and can choose to make their home a safe haven for their children again. They can still fill it with love and parental harmony; even if their children are the only reason to do so. I will discuss how to create family harmony at the end.
Statistics, With My Commentary
The statistics I chose are from independent, unbiased, scientific studies. My comments are based on my unique and successful approach to helping marriages, which has a long and well-established track record.
Research has shown when one partner is a child of divorce; the chances of that couple divorcing are double (Fincham & Stanley, 2002). When both partners are children of divorce, the chances of divorce triple.
Divorce and its effects on the development of children, Lisa Baron, 2010
Most of us are not quitters. But with a general divorce rate of over 50%, there is a general skepticism about marriage. So when the going gets tough, we start to wonder if we can make it where so many others have failed.
There are reasons for giving up that are often stronger than the individual determination to remain married.
- We lose hope because we see everyone else splitting up.
- We lose hope because our spouse does not seem to love us anymore, or even betray us.
- We do not know how to get our marriage back on track.
- Divorce is so common there is no longer much stigma associated with it.
Our kids are faced with exactly the same environmental discouragement, but on top of that, they have learned from their role-models that divorce is “okay”.
Our results suggest that divorce has consequences for [at least three] generations, including individuals who were not yet born at the time of the original divorce…. including lower education, more marital discord, more divorce, and greater tension in early parent‐child relationships. In supplementary analyses, we found no evidence that the estimated effects of divorce differed by offspring gender or became weaker over time.
The long reach of divorce: Divorce and child well‐being across three generations, Paul R. Amato & Jacob Cheadele, 2005
This statistic shows the effects of psychological impairment caused by the strain of divorce makes children become insecure parents themselves. They lack the benefit of positive role-models whom they could confidently point to as experts. In cultures where families continue for generation after generation, you notice how confident parents are. They don’t need books. They have real experience. They know just what to do and when.
For men, the parental divorce-suicidal ideation relationship remained statistically significant (Odds ratio 2.36).
Suicidal ideation among individuals whose parents have divorced: findings from a representative Canadian community survey, Fuller-Thomson E1, Dalton AD, 2010
This means that boys of divorce are 2.36 times more likely to have suicidal thoughts as adults. The tests controlled for and ruled out other possible factors.
Women are 50% more likely to attempt suicide over their lifetime. (Not a quote, but read directly from their table of results.)
Parental Divorce, Parental Depression, and Gender Differences in Adult Offspring Suicide Attempt, Dana Lizardi, et al, 2009
While men from broken families are significantly more likely to have suicidal thoughts than men from intact families, women from broken families are more likely to attempt suicide over their lifetime than women from intact families.
There is a similar statistic for prisoners, 90% of whom come from broken homes, but I didn’t include it as a primary statistic because I think there are too many other factors involved. But the suicide rates are sobering. Everyone says, “It won’t happen to my kids,” but the statistics say otherwise.
Children of divorce reported significantly more substance-using friends and less use of coping and social skills than children whose parents had not divorced.
I believe this study was designed to allow kids to speak about themselves honestly without fear of reprisal. Drugs and alcohol are the escape portals used to gain a temporary break from life. It is all about psychological escape. This statistic speaks about the weight put on the shoulders of children. Instead of playing, exploring, and generally enjoying their childhood, children from divorced homes are forced to make choices; they are forced to choose sides and rationalize their situation. Your divorce will push them into behaviors they wouldn’t otherwise think about.
The Logical Outcome For Kids Of Divorce
We know our children have needs far beyond those for mere physical survival. An intact family environment is the ‘normal’ condition for children, and all the studies that have been done show the detrimental effects it has on a child when this is missing. When children lose that vital environment, their lives shatter just like a glass hitting the floor.
It’s different if you have no choice. Stuff happens. If a spouse is a criminal or gets hooked on cocaine or is a pedophile, the other spouse actually has to choose their children over the marriage because the safety of the kids always comes first.
However, putting children through the agony of a divorce just because the parents feel they have grown apart or are not as happy as they had expected to be is unspeakably cruel, especially when the means to address such minor problems are readily available.
Statistics conclusively show that divorce has devastating short and long-term effects on our children that cannot be ignored.
My Experience With My Own Kids
In many ways, my own experience was probably not unlike yours. Before I became a divorce mediator, my first marriage ended in divorce. It hurt my kids for life. I don’t want you to go through what I am still going through.
The culture I grew up in was a deterrent to divorce. Only one of my relatives was divorced when I was a kid and he was treated like an outcast. My wife also came from an intact family. But times were changing. Our kids had plenty of friends who were from broken homes.
We put off divorce knowing logically that it was bad for our kids, but we didn’t know we could fix our marriage. My discoveries about marriage came later. The Internet didn’t even exist back then.
The pain my wife and I caused each other was excruciating. We tried “everything”, meaning everything that was available to us, including at least a dozen of the “best” therapists, over a period of ten years; both together and individually.
The last therapist we saw together provided the final straw. She told us to go home and tell each other what we didn’t like about each other using “I-statements”. My wife insisted that I go first. I did. Then she walked out of the room, and that was the end of our marriage.
So, I, not my wife, rationalized that the kids would be fine in “happier” surroundings after a divorce. I bought the BS sold by the divorce industry.
Our three kids got pummeled. We saw it happen. With the “help” from individual therapists, whose advice I now know is destructive to marriages, I blamed my wife and she blamed me. That pummeled our kids even more. Children trust their parents, and we were telling our kids that the other parent was bad news. Not always overtly, but we both definitely let them know “our” side. This was devastating to them.
One of our kids had a genius-level I.Q. She was always a well-balanced, rising star student. Even though she was enrolled in a premier school, during our pre-divorce phase she got into drugs and alcohol to the point where we had to send her to a wilderness program in Utah. She never fully recovered. There is no denying that our fighting impacted her so badly that she lost the qualities that set her apart as a child. Now, years later, her life is good. She has adapted. But it is not the life she could have had. If only we had known.
Our second child was a handful from the moment he was born, talk about a kid who needed a family. He was the poster child representing the kids you had better not take your eyes off for a minute. One set of eyes was not enough to watch him. Any distraction from constant vigil meant he would get into trouble. He needed us. He needed us together and as a team. He needed us and we let him down. We chose to fight and then divorce instead of enduring our bad marriage. There were no programs like mine back then, but we could have stuck it out, had we known.
As a young adult, he was an amazing person. Loving, generous, loved by all, and would have had more positive opportunities than most children because of who he was. But finding the ‘drug escape’ brought his young life to an abrupt end.
Our third did better, mostly because I started to see how my kids were falling off the cliffs and I made “saving him” my life’s mission. Now he even helps with The Marriage Foundation from time to time. But we all know he would have done better had his mother and I stayed together. Our efforts were not nearly enough. If only I had had the information that I’m giving you now, I would have reconciled with my wife. But I had no idea. She had no idea either.
There is no hiding from the truth. My wife and I would both rather burn in hell than be the cause of what we did to our children. We just didn’t know.
How To Get Out Of The Divorce Funnel Completely
After my experience of dragging my family through the court system, I became a divorce mediator so I could help others through the process more easily. I thought the divorce process was the culprit and I wanted to save people from the stress of a contested divorce. But God guided me to do something quite different. He set up a chain of events that opened my eyes and set me on the path of study and healing marriages.
While a mediator, I routinely asked couples, “Why are you getting a divorce?” One day a young couple cried and said, “We don’t know what else to do.” Without thinking I told them that if they wanted, I would try to help them save their marriage. They agreed and I got to work. I started with questions that would help establish goals and a pathway to achieve them. These are the questions I asked myself:
Why do people get married?
Not, “Why did you marry your spouse?” but why do we get married, at all?
I was floored because I had never asked myself this question. The answer is we all want to be happy, and in order to be happy, we need unconditional.
What is marriage?
Try looking it up. You will find only surface definitions that don’t tell you anything you need to know. It may be hard to find an adequate explanation, but you could define marriage by its purpose: to learn to love unconditionally. That may be confusing, but it is 100% universally accurate.
This purpose should guide all your actions, but few know about it or act in accord with it, and so marriages fail left and right.
What should we get out of marriage?
This goes back to the question of why we get married. ‘To be happy.’ But because nobody has a clear idea of their expectations or what creates happiness, they do things that work against their own and their family’s happiness!
Why do we ignorantly ruin the greatest opportunity for happiness that most of us will ever have?
Whatever endeavor you choose, you need the guardrails of do’s and don’ts. Yet most people start undermining their marriage even before the ceremony. How many couples are already fighting over silly aspects of the wedding party?
I began trying out my ideas about marriages on willing friends, clients, and strangers. My early efforts came together and finally, I broke the code! I had the solutions my first couple needed and it worked. They stopped being my divorce clients and happily stayed together, and still are.
I stopped my divorce mediation practice altogether and began only helping couples rebuild their marriages. I had couples coming to see me from all over Southern California; from the rich and famous to the poor and desperate. Even the county referred social worker cases to me.
My mission was simple: test everything. Gradually I refined, systematized, and documented my process.
I was invited to speak at the Second Saturday Divorce Seminars to women who had decided to get a divorce. Many of them changed their minds when they heard what I had to say, and by working through my system, they recovered their marriages.
Next, I formed The Marriage Foundation as a non-profit organization, wrote a couple of books, and built an online course to help people all over the world.
In my course, I walk individuals step-by-step through the same process I used with clients in my private practice. It has proven to work in the real world with thousands of clients. It will work for you too. And I can unequivocally say that the effort required to fix your marriage is a drop in the bucket compared to the suffering, time, effort, cost, and impact on your children if you go through with your divorce.
The downward spiral to divorce is not inevitable. You can get out of it. But it’s up to you.
I strongly encourage you to watch this video (Youtube 42min) where I discuss my system. Then sign up for the free trial of my 12 week marriage saving program and see for yourself how the principles I discovered will help your marriage.
Whatever you choose to do, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our counselors. We are all here to help you.
Love and Blessings to you and your family.