Children Scarred by Divorce
Divorce can devastate some children as they wrestle with its immediate and future deep-seated scars.
According to psychologist Patrick Fagan of Family Research Council Washington DC, the short and long term potential impact for practically every sector of society could be very challenging. In his report to the World Congress of Families Nov. 1999, Fagan said:
“In religious life, divorce diminishes the frequency of worship of God, and recourse to Him in prayer. In education, divorce diminishes learning capacities and high school and college attainment. In the marketplace, divorce reduces household income and massively cuts the life-wealth of individuals. In government and citizenship, divorce massively increases crime rates, abuse and neglect rates, and the use of drugs. Also, divorce weakens the health of children; even their life spans will be shortened. Finally, it increases behavioral, emotional and psychiatric risks, including suicide.”
Given such a revelation, I shall take a look today at three major areas in which the agonizing effects of divorce may have on the lives of some children.
The trauma leading up to and after the divorce of parents can trigger some emotional issues for children, which may be challenging for them to handle. I have known of children who exhibited levels of stress that often played out in aggressive behavior (displaced anger), fear, hatred, anxiety, depression, and insecurity, to name a few. Bedwetting, stomach issues, loss of appetite, headaches, having intrusive thoughts and bad dreams, may emerge from the divorce. Children also believe that they may have been responsible for causing the divorce and, as a result, may blame themselves for their parents’ actions.
Over the years, I realized that some hurting children buried their early emotional childhood pain and put their energies into academics, sports, or the arts and became exceptionally brilliant at what they pursued. However, upon reaching their early twenties and beginning to form intimate relationships, something said or done by their partner, which reminded them of their initial childhood pain, often triggered a ballistic reaction. On the heels of emotional and psychological effects, some negative social spin-offs may also surface.
I raised the question of marriage with some college students and to my surprise, some of them said they would never marry and cited the divorce experience of their parents and its effect on them as the primary reason. I have noticed that divorce contributes to the weak social skills that some children exhibit, some of which stretch into their adult life. Some children may get involved in unhealthy relationships to quench their thirst for love and affection and often fall into the hands of human vultures who take advantage of their vulnerability. Another of the many social downfalls of parental divorce is the child “divorcing” their parents by developing poor relationships with one or both of them. The social effects of divorce are unsettling for children, but the economic effects can also be brutal.
If both parents were contributing to the financial upkeep of the family unit before the split-up, the custodial partner may now bear the financial brunt. I have met children of custodial fathers and, more so, mothers who spoke of the hardships they had to undergo since their parents broke up. Sometimes the educational well-being, physical health and social activities of these innocent children may suffer because of a lack of financial means to meet the demands of these critical areas of the youngsters’ lives.
When unresolved disputes are present within a married, divorce should be a first response to the impasse. Seeking counselling with the goal of resolving the matter is a wise move. I strongly recommend that in some instances however, and especially where protracted parental abuse is present, getting children out of such an environment is sensible. Children should not suffer the stench of one or both parents’ selfish behavior that often leads to divorce. When the divorce occurs, every means including counselling, should be offered to the children and parents to help cushion the likely impact of separation.
Parents, devote yourselves to keeping your families intact and secure your children from the deadly jaws of divorce.
Marriage and Family Life Consultant