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Stop feeling guilty: Your divorce could be good for the kids

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Conventional wisdom convinces a lot of people that divorce is terribly harmful to children of any age, leaving them prone to depression, anxiety, trouble with authority and poor grades.

But what if conventional wisdom isn’t so wise and divorce really isn’t that harmful to children after all?

All of the tests and studies that have been done on the “children of divorce” suffer from essentially the same fatal flaw: It’s easy to study groups of people who came from homes where the parents divorced and compare them to groups of people where the parents remained married.

It isn’t possible, however, to peep into a parallel timeline in order to compare the children of divorce to the versions of themselves that would have come into being if their parents had stayed together.

That leaves scientists pondering a much tougher set of questions. Would those children who supposedly suffered psychological trauma from their parents’ divorce have suffered even worse trauma if their parents had stayed married?

What would have been the emotional effects of having to listen to hours of fighting and yelling or enduring the brutal bickering and sarcasm that unhappy couples can inflict on each other? Even if the parents managed a superficial facade of unity in front of the children, the children would have likely picked up the undercurrent of tension and known that the marriage was broken.

  • Would their grades have fallen even further?
  • Would they have ended up in more trouble with authority?
  • Would they have suffered even worse bouts of depression and anxiety?

There’s actually a lot of studies that indicate that the biggest harm to the children of divorce isn’t the divorce itself — it’s the economic struggles the children often face after divorce. Adequate and timely child support may be more important, by far, to creating a stable environment than “staying married for the sake of the kids.”

Experts are starting to say that divorce doesn’t have a pre-set effect on children. It can be bad, good or even indifferent to a child’s outcome in life, depending on each child’s situation. If you have primary custody of your children, focus on giving them what wasn’t there during your marriage: stability, your attention and energy (now that it isn’t being diverted to your ex-spouse), a loving environment and a solid commitment to building a better future together.

Source: The Atlantic, “Recognizing When Kids Benefit From Their Parents’ Divorce,” Dalton Conley, accessed Jan. 04, 2018

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