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Divorce is tough on kids. Unfortunately so is living in a family characterized by strife or the emotional turmoil of a dysfunctional marriage.
It goes without saying that if a parent is violent or on drugs, divorce might be the only option. In an ideal world there would be no divorce in families with children. There would also be no domestic violence and no spousal or child abuse either. Because the world is not ideal we will always have divorce as a result of violence or drugs and children, sadly, will be involved.
But what about situations when divorce is perhaps more “optional?” What about the hypothetical family in which two people want out of a marriage that is not working for them. They don’t fight in front of the kids, they both love the children and they both want to do the best they can for them. Can we expect these two to stay together in a dead marriage for the sake of the children?
This is not so hypothetical. I have been asked many times by parents who have decided to end their marriage whether they should delay the divorce until the children are older. And if so what is the best age?
Actually, if they have the will and the ability to stick it out the answer is yes. The rupture of their family is traumatic when it happens and, although many children of divorce do OK (including my own step children) many will carry the scars of the divorce throughout their lives.
Is there any age when children are likely to do better? I’m reminded of the lawyer joke about a couple in their nineties who went to their lawyer for a divorce. When the lawyer asked why after 65 years of marriage they were seeking a divorce the answer was, “We wanted to wait until the children were dead!” But, seriously, all children whatever their age will react to the divorce and it’s hard to tell in advance which ones will carry scars.
I am especially concerned about divorce in parents of very young. Children under three do not have the verbal ability or life experiences to handle such a massive change in their lives as a divorce. But even adolescents struggle with their anger and they worry about their own future marriage.
The best way to look at the problem of divorce is how to prevent it.
First of all as a society we should take marriage more seriously. It should be thought of as a COMMITMENT FOR LIFE. Alas too many couples today spend lots of money and energy on the wedding and put little thought into the marriage. Are we compatible? Do we share the same values? Do we want the same things out of life? Is each of us mature enough for the give and take of marriage? All these things are much more important than the color of the bridesmaid’s dresses but often ignored or glossed over before the wedding..
Second, a couple should LIVE TOGETHER IN MARRIAGE for a while before having children. Yes, many couples live together before marriage but it’s not the same thing. It’s a lot better to realize this marriage is not forever before a child arrives on the scene.
Third, WORK AS HARD AT MAKING YOUR MARRIAGE WORK as you do at your job or as you did in school. Falling in love is easy. Staying in love and making a marriage fulfilling for each person is damned hard work.
Fourth, if the marriage begins to founder or if one or both of you have doubts GET THE BEST MARRIAGE COUNSELING MONEY CAN BUY especially if children are involved. Does marriage counseling work? You bet it does especially if both spouses work at it.
If you are my hypothetical couple who do decide to stick it out for the sake of the kids even though counseling did not save the marriage, GET COUNSELING NOW TO HELP YOU FIGURE OUT HOW TO STAY TOGETHER FOR A WHILE.
Maybe you can hang in there until the kids are through with high school. Maybe not, but at least you will have tried.
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