Children and Divorce
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
The effects of divorce on children vary widely dependent on age, gender, the reason(s) for divorce, financial and social status, family support and a wide array of other factors. These effects can range from mild to severe.
Stories straight from the mouths of children who have lived through abuse, court corruption, and being taken away from a fit and loving parent:
However, when the final result of the divorce, either immediately or years afterwards, is the minimization or removal of a relationship with the Non-Custodial parent, the effects on children are devastating.
The unfortunate part is that too many Custodial Parents fail to acknowledge the invisible and irreperable emotional scars left on their children by not encouraging a positive, loving relationship with the Non-Custodial parent. In some cases the custodial parent even believes they are encouraging such a relationship; yet they move the children to the next town, the next county or in the worst cases, across the country from the Non-Custodial parent; all the while saying, "Oh sure, I encourage a relationship with their Mother/Father!" In some of these cases the parent/child relationship does thrive to a good extent. But never to the extent that it would had the children not been moved away.
The children who are used as pawns in a game of control and manipulation suffer long term emotional wounds they will carry with them for the rest of their life. They lose time with the Non-Custodial parent that they will never get back. Little momentous occassions such as riding a bike for the first time without training wheels, getting on a school bus for the first time, hitting their first home-run, their first school dance, their first prom date. The list goes on and on. The vengeful custodial parent sees these events as being taken away from their former spouse, when in reality the children are harmed just as bad if not worse than the non-custodial parent. Adults can figure out ways to deal with the anger and grief caused by such narccistic moves; children cannot.
Even more unfortunate is that many custodial parents do not realize that it's their own adult relationship with their children which they are putting in jeapordy when they bad mouth, insult, and otherwise degrade the non-custodial parent. When a custodial parent moves children away from the non-custodial parent for no other reason(s) than a better job, a better home, to be closer to relatives; the children do grow to resent the custodial parent. This is shown through many examples of Non Custodial parents whose children are now grown and have left the custodial parent to live with the parent they were separated from. In most cases, there is still love present, but it's respect that is lost. Too many custodial parents believe that their children will be children forever and cannot see past their immediate need to maintain control over a former spouse.
Some of the obvious effects on a child from being separated from a fit and loving parent are:
- Emotional Immaturity - Some children subconciouslly do not want to "grow up" without the other parent around to experience it. Out of love for the absent parent, they attempt to remain a child for as long as possible, in the hopes there may be a reunification and things can pick up where they left off.
- Conflicting Loyalties - In a large number of cases, children feel conflicting loyalties toward parents. This is especially true when one parent "bribes" or manipulates the childrens loyalty with money or promises of great things if they don't go with the other parent. Conficting loyalties is especially hard when one parent or the other makes the children feel guilty if they express desire to change primary residence. "Oh, if you want to go and live with your Mother then you must not love me!". Comments such as these are extremely confusing to a child; especially if the other parent shows love and respect for them, no matter what their decision is. In a high percentage of these cases, the children will lean toward and stay with the parent who applies the guilt; until they are older and able to process the information on a mature level. At that point, it goes back to the loss of respect for the parent who applied the guilt.
- Difficulty in Communicating Feelings - Children who are separated from a fit and loving parent with whom they once had a relationship have a hard, if not impossible, time trying to put the grief and confusion into words. Even to an adult, the removal of a fit and loving parent from a child's life makes no sense and borders on insanity. Imagine the grief and utter confusion which goes on in the mind of a child.
- Temper Tantrums - Temper Tantrums are typically caused by a child not knowing how to communicate his feelings (as stated above). Acting out with anger and frustration become the only way a child knows how to get his feelings "out".
Minimizing the Effects
With all that being said, it's critical for Non Custodial parents to do their best to continue taking the "high road" and not trying to "counter" the Custodial parents alienation attempts with alienation attempts of their own. It's critical to always do your best with the resources you have on a given day. Remember that your children will one day grow up and look back at who truly acted in their best interest in regard to their relationship with the other parent. When children reach a mature age, they will very clearly see that a nice house, a slightly better school, a slightly higher paying job... none of it was worth losing a fit and loving parent over. When children grow, they will remember the negative comments made by one parent about the other and they will be able to analyze those statements to determine if they were true or false.
One of the best ways you can help minimize the effects on your child(ren) is to DOCUMENT DOCUMENT DOCUMENT! Keep a binder, or ten binders if you must, with every hearing, every transcript, every e-mail, anything and everything you can keep to show your children when they become adults how and why things happened the way they did. Keep in touch with old friends that may even have appeared to be on your X's side during the divorce. It's another interesting phenomena (if you want to call it that) how the truth always prevails and people eventually see through lies and manipulation.