Do Children Benefit from the Divorce of Their Parents?

Wayne Stocks —  In Kids View of Divorce January 31, 2013 — 3 Comments

Editor’s Note:  We are taking a break this week from our discussion of the 6/50 Window and the spiritual impacts of divorce on children.  Come back next week as we delve further into this issue.  For now, please join us in a discussion on what benefits children may find in the divorce of their parents and what the cost of those benefits might be.

Earlier in January HuffPost Divorce asked the following on Facebook and Twitter:

“We want to know: What’s one way your child has actually benefited from your divorce?”

They have compiled SOME of the responses (the positive ones) and published them in an article titled Divorce And Children: 30 Ways Readers Say Their Children Benefited From Divorce.  Many of the replies focus on how much better off the kids must be because the parents are better off (an adult-centered view of divorce at best).

Kudos to Vicki Larson (#6 of 31) who did list some benefits to her kids but concluded by saying

“All in all, pretty good lessons.  But, I’d recommend other ways to learn them.”

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I went back to the original Facebook post because I thought I had commented on it.  Here is what I shared:

“In my experience, parents and their kids may have completely different views on the divorce and the effects thereof. We, as parents, may think something benefited our kids that they would gladly trade to have their family back together. At the risk of offending some people, the theory of “trickle down happiness” is an adult concoction, and I suspect that most (not all, but most) kids would not buy into that as a benefit of divorce. My goal in stating this is not to blame or offend or cast aspersions. It is only that we may endeavor to see our decisions through the eyes of our kids.”

I thought Elizabeth Jurenovich offered and even better insight:

“Try and reframe it however you like; the truth is that children are resilient but divorce very rarely “benefits” children. The fact that my children survived the split doesn’t mean it was “beneficial” in the long run, because the splintering of promises on which the foundation of their lives was built is their lifelong burden to bear.”

What are your thoughts?  Are there any benefits?  What is the cost of any potential benefits? How do we acknowledge and help kids to harness the potential lessons they can learn from their parents’ divorce without minimizing the pain involved in the process?  Please weigh in below in the comments section.

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Kathleen says:

No! Unless a child is being physically or sexually abused by a parent there are no benefits to divorce for children. I am a child of divorce (I was 12) and it pretty much destroyed my life for several years. My mother who initiated the divorce thought that there would be “benefits” for her as she was unhappy in the marriage. Unfortunately it did not turn out that way and she later deeply regretted that she divorced my dad.

You cannot talk to the parents to get a view of what the child feels. The parents will never know everything that is going on inside that child. Trust me, I know. Parents will try to justify it to relieve guilt, but to be honest, I’m not sure how many of today’s parents even care. Many of them are self-centered and concerned about “their own happiness”.

I eventually was “born again” when I was 27 and my husband and I have been married for 38 years, so there is hope. :)

Bob Collins says:

No! Children do not benefit from their parents’ divorce. In fact they are as damaged as they would be from the sudden, violent death of one of their parents. They learn that life is not to be depended upon for safety, security, or happiness. They learn the cold of trying to fall asleep while crying about the loss of their “safe place” of home where they can be assured of security and encouragement from both parents who can reinforce each other’s parenting.

As a stepfamily minister and family mediator since 1996, and a teacher of court-required classes for divorcing parents of minors, I’ve seen many, many detrimental effects of divorce on children. I’ve also heard many, many parents trying to justify their divorces by saying the children will be better off.

No, they won’t be better off. As Judith Wallerstein points out in her book, What About the Kids?, children whose parents divorce are affected by the divorce the rest of their lives in almost every conceivable context, from their self-esteem and -confidence, to their social interactions, to their own marriages and parenting. By far most of the divorcing parents who come through my classes are children of divorce themselves who are just passing along the epidemic.

I’ve watched these scarred children try to fit into stepfamilies in second or third marriages. It is sad to see! They exhibit signs of trauma, insecurity, fear, distrust, anger, acting out, parental isolation, hostility toward the new adults, and most every other trauma-related behavior. Divorce is wrong toward your spouse to whom you’ve sworn to be true for life; it’s abusive to your children who trust you both to care for them unselfishly.

The ministry I do is to the adult chuldren of divorce. Prior to that I led a large single parent family ministry for over 12 years. The same hurt I saw in children and teens is the same hurt and damage I see in the adults today. Issues such as fear, anger, insecurity, abandonment, lack of trust, fear of commitment and depression can be traced back to the breakup of their family.
Benefits of having their life shattered? Very few. The stats are high of children of divorce experiencing their own divorce. Benefits? More children being damaged because of adults decisions.
I must say that if a child is shattered, they may take that damage into their own marriages and parenting if they do not find healing and the tools to move forward. That was one of the main reasons for the program I wrote, “Chained No More…A Journey of Healinng for the Adult Children of Divorce”. To help break the chain of divorce.
There is hope and healing in Jesus Christ when these hurting children of divorce realize who God says they are; not other people or experiences.