Any parent who has gone through a divorce will likely tell you that one of the hardest decisions they had to make was whether or not they should “stay together for the kids”. Understandably, you don’t want to cause your children any heartache, and you might be worried that they’ll grow up with life-long emotional scars from a split during their childhood.
But depending on the circumstances (and how well you and your former partner can learn to co-parent), divorce doesn’t have to hurt your children — in fact, here are four ways that they can actually benefit from having their parents split up.
They gain stability: What the “stay together for the kids” argument fails to acknowledge is that exposing children to chronic conflict and stress between their parents can be much more harmful than an amicable divorce. As a caregiver, your job is to provide your kids with security, safety, and stability. But if you’re in a high conflict marriage and you’re stressed out all the time, providing those necessities is practically impossible. If your relationship is an unstable environment, one of the best ways you can establish stability for your children is to get divorced.
They learn to build empathy: Going through a major change to their family unit can help children be more empathetic when hearing about the problems of others. When their friends have any problems at home, they can more easily relate to their issues. Empathy can be a challenging skill for children to hone, but by experiencing big changes in their own lives, they’ll be able to better understand their peers’ struggles as well.
They get to spend quality time with each parent: Not all kids of divorce spend less time with their parents – in fact, successful co-parenting means your children actually get to spend more one-on-one time with each of their parents. This gives them the opportunity to create more meaningful, close relationships with their parents as individuals, which will be especially impactful as your children get older.
They learn not to take marriage for granted: When you’ve been at the same job for a long time, you might find you start to do things on autopilot, and not put in the same amount of effort that you used to when everything was fresh and new. It’s the same with marriage – it’s way too easy to start to take your relationship for granted as the years go on. But for children of divorce, they’ve seen first-hand what can happen when spouses don’t continually work on their relationship, and it helps them understand how important it is for them to put the same effort in during year ten as they did during year one.
Remember that you don’t have to wait until “something bad happens” (ie. an affair, an addiction, etc.) in your marriage before you decide to split up. Many of the most successful divorces where both partners are able to co-parent effectively are successful because they called it before the relationship went truly sour. A more amicable divorce is easier to navigate than one with added drama and complications. What’s most important is that your decision puts you and your children’s well-being first — whether that’s “staying together for the kids” or “splitting up for your kids”.
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