Three views on why not to 'stay together for the kids'
If your marriage is struggling, should you stay together for the kids?
Not always. Explains author Robyn Reisch, writing for iheartintelligence.com: “A married home does not always bring happiness, security or stability.” In fact, she says, it can often “result in the opposite.”
Domestic relations attorney and therapist Vicki Shemin, herself divorced and a child of divorce, notes three ways that divorce can benefit children. And therapist Susan Gadoua states simply: “Regardless of whether parents stay together or split, if there is fighting going on between them, the children will suffer.”
If you’re staying together for the kids, Reisch says here are three factors to consider:
1. Internalizing behavior – “Your children will internalize your behavior toward one another.” She notes: “Intentionally or not, you and your spouse are creating a sort of relationship blueprint for your child.”
2. Resentment – “Resentments will build, and not only between yourself and your partner.” The biggest concern? Says Reisch: “Most likely . . . [your children] will find a way to blame themselves for the family’s problems;” and
3. Living in conflict – Reisch points out: “Your children will be living in a place of conflict. Healthy conflict is one thing. After all, no home is entirely peaceful all the time. Occasional disagreements can teach a child how to reconcile, forgive, and compromise. However, if your house seems like a battle zone more often than not, your children are unlikely to feel secure and happy there.”
Therapist Shemin, in an article for divorcedmoms.com (later reprinted by the Huffington Post), points to three ways that divorce can benefit children:
1. Independence – Says Shemin: “Whether it is borne of a need to be self-protective, self-motivated or self-aware, children of divorce often display an admirable streak of independence…”
2. Emotional intelligence – “Perhaps because they have had to navigate bifurcated and often discordant households,” says Shemin, “children of divorce can tend to have extraordinarily high EQ…”
3. High achievement – Shemin notes: “Archetypically, I have seen many children of divorce strive beyond measure to be successful by pushing themselves to the far-flung corners of their young limits in various fields of endeavor (academics, sports, hobbies, and talents). I believe the root of this palpable drive is to please one or both parents.”
Therapist Susan Gadoua, writing for psychologytoday.com, objects to our culture’s de facto notion that “divorce hurts children,” criticizing the research conducted by Judith Wallerstein. Says Gadoua: “[Wallerstein] did some of the greatest misleading in her research and subsequent book entitled, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce.” Adds Gadoua: “There are some interesting and surprising studies out that show even small amounts of parental conflict can cause problems for their children.”
Citing Robert Emery’s work, Gadoua notes: “. . . [I]n cases where the parents do argue often, divorce can actually be a relief to the children because they no longer have to live with all the tension they had experienced.”
Gadoua acknowledges: “Every situation is truly unique and a myriad of factors need to be weighed such as timing, age of your children, safety for you and your children, financial ability to split up as well as other resources on hand.” But she believes that while “staying for the children can seem like ‘the only right thing to do,’…it is not in all cases. Children are resilient and when you are happy, they are much more likely to be happy.”