does divorce really screw up kids? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 160 Old 07-11-2010, 10:50 PM - Thread Starter
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Does divorce really screw up kids, or do they generally come out ok?

All opinions welcome; please just be respectful of others' opinions. Thanks!!

PS. My kids just turned 8 and 13, if that makes a difference.

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#2 of 160 Old 07-11-2010, 11:01 PM
 
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Divorce does not screw up children, bad parenting screws up children. (Ok, that is overly simplistic and there are 3 million complicating factors there outside of parents but for the sake of this argument...)

To the degree that parents affect the 'outcome' of their children it doesn't (in my opinion and experience) matter that much if the parents are together or separate. If parents co-parent respectfully and work together for the benefit of their kids it is better to be divorced and happy than together and unhappy. However, that is providing that both parents can be grown ups and put the kids first.

Ok, there are tons of other factors that matter here... but I think that is the basic starting point.

My advice may not be appropriate for you. That's ok. You are just fine how you are and I am the right kind of me.

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#3 of 160 Old 07-11-2010, 11:02 PM
 
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It doesn't have to. I am a product of several divorces actually, and a really screwed up family (like Oprah worthy). I was a competitive, nationally ranked athlete, graduated with honors from high school and college, was an officer in the military, and am the sole income provider in my home, supporting my family rather well.

I'm very level-headed, I have no horrible "scars". I've been married to my husband (who, by the way, was my first boyfriend!) for 7.5 years.

I owe it all to my mom, who was a stern but loving parent with clear expectations my whole childhood. She was very involved in my life, always supported me, but was really strict and upfront also. Made it clear that I was expected to do well, regardless of anything going on in my life. And I did.

I'll gladly share more...but my husband is waiting

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#4 of 160 Old 07-11-2010, 11:02 PM
 
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Well Dh's parents are divorced and I wouldn't say he is screwed up at all. I think his parents did a lot of stuff right when it came to their divorce. They never bad mouthed each other behind their backs. In fact I have never heard his mother say a bad thing about his father or the other way around. They also had joint custody, 4 days a week at mom's, and 3 days a week at dad's. His mother also married a wonderful man, who has been incredibly supportive of dh and his siblings. Was it hard on them? Of course. Divorce is hard and disruptive, but I don't think it results in screwed up kids.

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#5 of 160 Old 07-11-2010, 11:03 PM
 
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It really does depend on the parents and the divorce.

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#6 of 160 Old 07-11-2010, 11:05 PM
 
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It doesn't screw up kids any more than living in a home filled with arguments, tension and possibly worse.

It depends entirely on how the adults conduct themselves - married or divorced.

If it's an acrimonious divorce, then certainly that can be detrimental to children (if they hear their parents bad-mouthing each other, for instance, or are in the middle of an ugly custody battle). But it's also damaging for kids to live with two people who are married but acrimonious - bad-mouthing each other, seeing disrespectful or abusive behavior.

Some couples are able to be more friendly, or at least civil, once divorced. It can take a while, but divorce doesn't have to mean ugly scenes.
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#7 of 160 Old 07-11-2010, 11:11 PM
 
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There are a lot of happy healthy adults whose parents divorced as children.

I'm not a therapist, nor do I have anything but my own personal experiences to go on, but I tend to think that children are better off in a happy household than a miserable one. If parents really cannot be happy together, if the kids are witness to unresolved arguments, bitterness, acrimony, and household tension, I tend to think they'd be better off if the parents separated, even if it was a tough adjustment at first. And if abuse of any type is involved, they are way better off if the parents divorce.

If the marriage is dull and unsatisfying for the parents, but they get along OK, I'm not sure which would be better for the kids .

I don't know how this applies to your situation, but it sounds like you're thinking contemplating a very difficult decision. s

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#8 of 160 Old 07-11-2010, 11:15 PM
 
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I agree with the PPs - it depends on the parents and how they conduct themselves. My DH's parents divorced when he was about 9 and it drastically affected him and he still has a lot of pain about it. However, his parents bad-mouthed each other, continued to call each other and leave nasty messages, pulled the step-parents into it, and wouldn't be in the same room with each other for the rest of his childhood into adulthood until our wedding. It was miserable for him. My parents divorced when I was around 7 and even though it was hard for me to understand I really have no lingering issues about it. They never spoke an ill word towards one another. I think the parents' attitudes and dignity (or lack of it) is key.

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#9 of 160 Old 07-11-2010, 11:16 PM
 
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Divorce is no more traumatizing then living in a house full of conflict, probably less so. A civil divorce, as civil as it can possibly be, is ideally the best. If one party is being hurtful about it, then there are certainly a lot of therapists who would be capable of helping your kids deal with the divorce and the coinciding fallout.

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#10 of 160 Old 07-11-2010, 11:59 PM
 
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not mine.. they dont like their dad and things changed for the bettet since the split
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#11 of 160 Old 07-12-2010, 12:14 AM
 
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It depends on the kids and the divorce. My parents are split up. It didn't screw me up, as I was in my 20s. I wish they'd broken up a lot sooner...at least 10 years.

My decision to split up with my ex was the best thing that ever happened to ds1, imo. It just really all depends.

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#12 of 160 Old 07-12-2010, 12:16 AM - Thread Starter
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It just really all depends.
Yeah, I know. I just wanted opinions anyway.

I think dh was seriously screwed up by his parents' divorce, but I also know that his mother bad-mouthed his father a lot (and still does to this day.)

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#13 of 160 Old 07-12-2010, 12:17 AM
 
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I agree with pp, it depends on how the parents handle it. I am a step mom of a 6 yo, and he's not screwed up. The mom can be a bit crazy at time, but dh is very level headed and does not 'play her game'.... But they have been divorced since dss was 9 mo, so he doesn't really 'know' any other way...
But I wil say not getting a divorce can sometimes be worse. My mom should have divorced my fathers years ago, but she didn't, because of us kids. Now, I am 'dealing' with the result of her just 'sucking it up' for us. She has moved in with us and I have become her shoulder. After my brother moved out a few years ago she realized how empty she had become from staying with my father when she should have left him. Yes it would have been hard on us, but it makes me so sad seeing what has become of my mom. So, long story short, if it is not a heathy relationship then it is probably better off ended, even though it might be hard for the kids short term. It kills me to see my mom like this and now know the pain she has suffered for so long...

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#14 of 160 Old 07-12-2010, 12:35 AM
 
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Originally Posted by A&A View Post
Yeah, I know. I just wanted opinions anyway.

I think dh was seriously screwed up by his parents' divorce, but I also know that his mother bad-mouthed his father a lot (and still does to this day.)
My parents are happily married. H parents divorced and (we're almost 40) still can't be in the same room together, bad mouth each other and are just toxic. I think my H is very affected and screwed up by his parents divorce and unhappy marriage together.

As for me, I have the same question you do. We coexist. We don't argue in front of the kids. We kinda just do our own things.
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#15 of 160 Old 07-12-2010, 12:41 AM
 
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I suppose it depends.

However, almost all of my friends come from (acrimoniously) divorced families (including me). We are all doing very well as adults, most of us in stable, happy marriages. On the other hand, we'd all say that it messed us up quite seriously - at the time of the divorce. We were all between the ages of 8-13 when our parents split, and those were dark, difficult years. A lot of anger, a lot of sadness, a lot of high-risk activity. It took years for most of us to get over the wreckage of the families we'd known. They are not years we really like to think about now.

We emerged as adults ok. But the years it took to get there were not ok.
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#16 of 160 Old 07-12-2010, 12:44 AM
 
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Yeah, I know. I just wanted opinions anyway.

I think dh was seriously screwed up by his parents' divorce, but I also know that his mother bad-mouthed his father a lot (and still does to this day.)
Yeah. This is indicative of some real problems, imo. That kind of thing leaves kids feeling guilty for still caring about the "other" (non-custodial) parent, makes them feel pulled between both parents, etc. It's really unfair to pull on a child's loyalty like that.

I let one or two comments about my ex slip out, despite my good intentions, but I generally gave ds1 as honest, yet age-appropriate, an explanation of what was going on as I could manage. (In the first couple of years after our breakup, my ex first bounced between 3-4 addresses in about six months, then mostly dropped off the map, then ended up in jail.) Explaining what was going on, without badmouthing his dad, was hard...but he deserved to know, and he did not deserve to feel that the father he loved - and was/is quite a bit like, in some ways - was someone I held in contempt, yk?

I think this kind of thing is a huge factor in how a divorce impacts kids.

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#17 of 160 Old 07-12-2010, 12:48 AM
 
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I believe that children and adults suffer consequences in divorce. This, however, is not a simple topic to post about and/or make generalizations about.
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#18 of 160 Old 07-12-2010, 01:02 AM
 
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I think it depends on how much tension/conflict the kids actually witness.

To kids who really didn't know anything was wrong, ie. if mom and dad were civil, arguing behind closed doors or without kids around then, yes, it could affect them negatively. It could feel like the rug was pulled from underfoot.

However, if the kids maybe saw it coming from the horrible environment full of open conflict/hostility, maybe it prepares them somehow.

Then there's age and ability to understand dynamics without blaming themselves for being 'bad' and breaking the marriage up.

And gender dynamics.

So many factors to consider.
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#19 of 160 Old 07-12-2010, 01:03 AM - Thread Starter
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A couple of things I'm concerned would really affect my kids:

Living in two places, since we would share custody (as in, "oh no, the book/toy/game/outfit I want is at the other place," etc.)

both mom and dad having less money (my kids are really accustomed to music lessons, elaborate birthday parties, summer camps, vacations, etc.) I mean, this sounds materialistic, but it's the life they know, yk?

(And it's not really about materialism, because we buy them "experiences" much more often than "stuff.")

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#20 of 160 Old 07-12-2010, 01:08 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maizy View Post




As for me, I have the same question you do. We coexist. We don't argue in front of the kids. We kinda just do our own things.


I saw your vax thread.

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#21 of 160 Old 07-12-2010, 01:16 AM
 
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I don't think it screwed me and my siblings up. My parent divorced when I was 3, yet they remained good friends and did a great job co-parenting. My dad would be there many mornings to take us to school, he was around for conferences, sport events, concerts, etc. When we got in trouble as teens you better believe my mom was on the phone with him and he came over for lectures/family meetings. He was/is always at my mom's house for holidays - so we didn't have to switch off and say, have Christmas with one parent one year and the other the next - my Dad was there Christmas morning. We did do the whole every-other weekend at my Dad's house growing up. But it was fun, and he lived in a few different nearby cities, so it wasn't something we dreaded.

I'm sure it was harder on my mom in ways financially. She had worked to put my dad through law school, and then they split and he was a judge for a while before getting out of the field all together. She was an RN, and has two master's degrees in nursing - including becoming a midwife. I know there was a time when my dad wasn't paying child-support - but I didn't know it at the time, yk? She wasn't complaining about it, and we weren't suffering, as a result. I can see how splitting up could mean a big financial stress depending on the family (especially when I consider my own marriage; I've been a SAHM for a decade w/o a completed college degree. Child support wouldn't allow us to have the same life we do now).

I definitely agree that it really depends on how the divorce is handled - whether or not true co-parenting is possible, if there is resentment on either side - badmouthing, etc., the age of the kids, living situations (like in the case of one parent moving to another state). Step-parents and step/half siblings (I have a half-brother), are all things to consider.

IME, though, there is a way to go about it that least impacts the kids. I never really wished my parents were married, even though I don't remember them being married since I was so young.

A&A. I read your post in P&P, but didn't have anything helpful to contribute.

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#22 of 160 Old 07-12-2010, 01:41 AM - Thread Starter
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A&A. I read your post in P&P, but didn't have anything helpful to contribute.
Thanks!! I'll take all of the hugs I can get.

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#23 of 160 Old 07-12-2010, 01:49 AM
 
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I think it is super complicated.
My parents divorce was pretty hard on me and my brother. I have done a lot of therapy - and am now happily married and in a good spot in my life. I probably appeared outwardly to have it pretty well together, but struggled with relationship/family dynamic stuff a lot. But, and this is a huge part of it I think, my parents had a horrible divorce. They did not co-parent, talked badly about each other, did awful things to each other, were in court non-stop, held a lot of anger and blamed each other for a lot - even though they clearly hated each other, it was like they could never get over it and let it go. Sooo, I would probably say that divorce is going to be hard for your kids to some degree. How hard it is will probably depend on how the parents handle the situation. I don't think kids come out totally unscathed, but if it is necessary, it can be handled well - or not.

A book I would recommend is called "The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce". Very interesting and applicable, I found.
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#24 of 160 Old 07-12-2010, 02:54 AM
 
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My parent's split the summer I turned 9. I have no memories of them fighting before the split (a handful from after). I think divorcing my father was one of the best decisions my mother made. Yes, I have some hurt and scars related to the divorce. My father has not been a father to me or my brothers (aged 7 and 2 at the time) since the divorce. He moved in with his secretary, and her two children started calling him dad and using his last name in no time. Meanwhile he went longer and longer without seeing us or speaking to us. He often moved (cities and even states) without letting us know. My mother also screwed up a bit, a few times really ranting about him to me (I think mostly with me as the oldest and only girl she felt like I should understand her position more. I think she was more careful about what she said to or in front of my brothers.)

Neither of my brothers have spoken to him in years, and this January he disowned me in a bizarre off the deep end email. He's unstable to say the least.

My mother did very very well to get out and get us out. I'm hurt by his rejection. It was really hard for her to be a broke single mom after years of SAH. Her remarriage was a hard transition for all of us. My stepfather is a wonderful caring husband and father (with some faults of course). He brought to the family three kids I am so very glad to call my siblings.

I'm not screwed up. My relationships with my parents, step parents, siblings and so on have certainly helped make me who I am today. I was a rather strong student in middle and high school. I was a very successful self employeed tutored throughout high school and well beyond. I never did do drugs, drink alcohol, or the like. I married my high school sweetheart when we were very young. We put ourselves through college, started careers, bought a house, and then had children. My DH and I have our issues, but ours is a solid loving marriage.

My father was an alcoholic. Both of my brothers have struggled with alcoholism as well. They're not nearly as on the surface successful as I am. I don't think that's the fault of the divorce. They are honestly very loving men. They're not settled in relationships at the moment, but they treat women with respect.

A&A, if you need to make changes in your marriage to take care of yourself, don't hold off because of your children.

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#25 of 160 Old 07-12-2010, 03:14 AM
 
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My parents divorced when I was sixteen and it really screwed me up. REALLY. I'm sure it doesn't do the same to everyone since there are a million factors.

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#26 of 160 Old 07-12-2010, 09:28 AM
 
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Divorce does not screw up children, bad parenting screws up children. (Ok, that is overly simplistic and there are 3 million complicating factors there outside of parents but for the sake of this argument...)

To the degree that parents affect the 'outcome' of their children it doesn't (in my opinion and experience) matter that much if the parents are together or separate. If parents co-parent respectfully and work together for the benefit of their kids it is better to be divorced and happy than together and unhappy. However, that is providing that both parents can be grown ups and put the kids first.

Ok, there are tons of other factors that matter here... but I think that is the basic starting point.
That.

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Originally Posted by MissLotus View Post
It doesn't screw up kids any more than living in a home filled with arguments, tension and possibly worse.

It depends entirely on how the adults conduct themselves - married or divorced.

If it's an acrimonious divorce, then certainly that can be detrimental to children (if they hear their parents bad-mouthing each other, for instance, or are in the middle of an ugly custody battle). But it's also damaging for kids to live with two people who are married but acrimonious - bad-mouthing each other, seeing disrespectful or abusive behavior.

Some couples are able to be more friendly, or at least civil, once divorced. It can take a while, but divorce doesn't have to mean ugly scenes.
And that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cascadian View Post
I think it depends on how much tension/conflict the kids actually witness.

To kids who really didn't know anything was wrong, ie. if mom and dad were civil, arguing behind closed doors or without kids around then, yes, it could affect them negatively. It could feel like the rug was pulled from underfoot.

However, if the kids maybe saw it coming from the horrible environment full of open conflict/hostility, maybe it prepares them somehow.

Then there's age and ability to understand dynamics without blaming themselves for being 'bad' and breaking the marriage up.

And gender dynamics.

So many factors to consider.
And that.

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#27 of 160 Old 07-12-2010, 09:41 AM
 
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I thought that more of the research was indicating that if the marriage was high-conflict, kids tend to see how the divorce improves their personal situation and have better outcomes (than if the parents stayed together)

If the marriage is low-conflict, kids don't feel the reason for the divorce, and see only the negative side of it for them and have poorer outcomes (than if the parents stayed together).

However -- generally the outcomes (not surprisingly) are better for kids coming from a low-conflict situation than a high-conflict situation.

Nice even-handed article summarizing research and what items indicate a better outcome and how to mitigate certain factors:

http://parenting247.org/article.cfm?ContentID=646
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#28 of 160 Old 07-12-2010, 10:03 AM
 
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I haven't read the other replies.

My parents divorce did affect me. But I think that was mostly the circumstances surrounding it, not the actual divorce. I was older, 17, so I think that helped (I guess, I don't really have anything to compare it to).

I think the worst part for me was trying to learn how to deal with my parents as separate. It wasn't a pleasant divorce and they have a very hard time being in the same place at the same time even now, so it makes family things extremely difficult. And I did bring some issues into my own marriage as a result.
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#29 of 160 Old 07-12-2010, 10:32 AM
 
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I think it's such an individual thing. I know a family where the kids are doing much better since their parents' divorce, but it was a really awful and tense marriage and anything would be better than living in that environment. Also, there's something to be said for parents being in separate happy relationships instead of one unhappy relationship from the standpoint of modeling happy adult relationships for their kids. On the other hand, divorce can be full of drama, and can be financially devastating, both of which can be difficult for children. And the difficulties single parents face, and having parents date and bring other romantic partners in and out of the kids' lives can be difficult. I suppose you'd have to weigh the pros and cons for your specfic case.

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#30 of 160 Old 07-12-2010, 10:41 AM
 
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In the short term my answer is yes. In the long term no it won't. Sorry for being brief I have to run take my kid to another appointment. My answer is based off my divorce. My ex got addicted to drugs and when he refused to straighten up I kicked him to the curb, hired a good lawyer and now have sole custody. The only real right the ex has any more to our child is to pay child support. I am a better mother now that I only have to take responsibility for a child and not have to parent a man-child as well.
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