Family Discord and Divorce
These days, parental arrangements can be endless: from the old-fashioned ones where both parents raise their girl to the new-fashioned ones that add various parent substitutes into the mix. These parental subs can be guardians, live-in boyfriends or girlfriends of the parents, or their partners, but difficulties can arise when disagreements crop up between the parents or parent figures. The most frequent difficulty in a traditional family is divorce.
Not only is divorce a major change for the parent, it can also be a trying time for the children involved — but only if you, the parent, are not prepared. You may not be able to lift the pain your daughter may feel over the divorce, but you can give her the following:
The tools to deal with the big change in the family structure
The certainty that her life — after her parents' divorce — will go on
The assurance that you will always love her
A chance to observe adults working out a serious problem to everyone's satisfaction as much as is possible
The assuredness that she, too — if someday life hands her a huge challenge — will be able to handle it with confidence, class, and character
Approximately half of all marriages end in divorce, although the statistics vary from year to year. For second and third marriages, the divorce rate is even higher. As a result, more than half of children end up living in a single-parent home, but not necessarily for long, since the majority of divorced parents remarry.
If you consider the implications of divorce, take the steps leading to it carefully, and go through the whole process by taking the high road, you can impart a difficult but valuable lesson to your daughter that will serve her well for the rest of her life.
Many parents are wounded by the breakup of their marriages and, like a hurt animal, withdraw into a dark corner to lick their wounds, forgetting all about their daughter. But, that will not be you. You are a proactive parent. You are the type of mother or father who studies the pros and cons of divorce long before the fact and is willing to do what it takes to make this experience as smooth as possible for your girl. This exploration begins long before the actual separation because you read about what you are going through, think about what you are doing, and get advice from people you can trust.
Sadly, too often predivorce couples try to minimize their difficulties with the use of alcohol or drugs. Or they turn to emotional and physical abuse of each other. Witnessing these signs of parental dysfunction can be more harmful to your daughter than the actual breakup. In fact, the actual breakup may be a relief for her. When you sink to behaviors that are not only unacceptable but also harmful to yourself, your girl will lose respect for you. A screaming parent embarrasses a girl. An hour-long mother and father fight makes a girl feel it is her fault. Staying up all night hearing accusations flung at each other by the adults she loves most will definitely not help your daughter when she has to take a history test in first period the next day.
Parental discord can play a major role in their children's well-being. It can turn out to be more disruptive than the absence of a mother or father due to divorce. In homes with a high rate of conflict, children experience a more negative effect long-term than in discord-free post-divorce homes.
Double Divorce Dangers
The fact is that divorce alone usually does not hurt children as much as the actions of the couple that occur before the divorce and their demeanor afterward. On the one hand, mothers and fathers going through divorce already take time away from what they ought to concentrate on — their roles as parents — and that leaves a void. On the other hand, their conduct between themselves — and as individuals — can sink to the lowest standard of behavior, setting up a bad example for their daughters and damaging them.
The least you, as an about-to-be-divorced mother or father, can do is to make sure you do your “ugly” acting-out away from your daughter. Take your discord to a place away from home. Text your disagreements to each other. Establish regular arguing hours with your spouse when your daughter is at school, or meet at a neutral ground like an office while you leave your girl under the supervision of a friend.
Many children of divorce report lowered academic expectations by their parents, plus less checking on their schoolwork by their mothers and fathers, and diminished parent participation in their activities and sports than children of married parents. Be aware that as a result, the kids tend to lose interest as well.
Do whatever you can to make the transition from a two-parent home to a one-parent one as easy as possible. Divorce is widely accepted these days. Books abound on the topic. Counselors are standing by. It is much better to get too much help in preparing to be a divorced mother or father than not enough.
The good news is that after a temporary dip in scholastic performance, school-age girls' academic scores rise when her parents choose divorce over staying in a bad marriage. Unfortunately, for boys, the results are not so positive. Many of them fall behind in academics, and their discipline problems at school tend to spike.
The more you are able to weather the interruption in your life that even the “best” divorce brings with it, the more you can help your daughter be strong and thrive through a difficult time for both of you. Plus, this is an opportunity for you to focus on the positives that can arise after the divorce.
You have it within you to restore your home environment to calmness and to return to your most important goal: raising your daughter to realize all her potential. You, too, have a chance to advance. Your first, or present, marriage did not work out, but you did not go through it in vain. You learned a lot and will put it to good use should you get another chance. Trust in yourself — you will.