Staying Together for the Kids’ Sake:
Why it’s a Bad Idea
Staying together in a marriage for the kids’ sake is a controversial strategy with both its opponents and supporters. Perhaps, the best decision is made on a case-by-case basis. For example, it might make sense for some couples to stay together for kids about to graduate or enter college since a major disruption like a divorce could seriously damage their college prospects, GPA, or decision-making skills.
On the other hand, you could face more serious problems by cutting your children out of the loop. Choosing martyrdom for your children is rarely a wise decision. You and your spouse are unhappy in the marriage, and you can’t really hide that glaring fact from your kids.
Children understand more than you think, and they can’t be happy when their parents are miserable and constantly sniping at each other. If you try to stick it out until some undefined time in the future, the following problems may develop:
- You show your kids that it is better to accept mediocrity than strive for excellence.
- The lessons include a primer on marriage that states loneliness is preferable to togetherness.
- Children might conclude that marriage means disliking your spouse and being trapped in misery.
- Your kids may accept your relationship as a template for their own.
- You might be perceived as being lazy for not working to improve your marriage and relationship with your spouse
Sound Psychological Advice from Experts
Many parents believe that divorce causes tremendous damage to children, but children are also pretty resilient. In some cases, children are less bothered by divorce than they are by constant infighting, sarcasm, and snarky comments.
Children indeed thrive in secure, predictable environments, but unhappy marriages are anything but secure. Divorce can be a better option because it offers kids a measure of relief from walking on eggshells.
Most kids would be happier if their parents could truly reconcile, and you should certainly explore the possibility. However, some marriages just break down irreversibly.
If you handle a divorce honestly, your children might experience a temporary disruption in their lives and routines, but that can lead to greater resiliency and strength to deal with life’s problems.
Try your best to find common ground for genuine reconciliation, but if it doesn’t work, you should not stay together for the children’s sake.
Dealing with the Problems of a Failed Marriage
Once you have determined that the marriage can’t be saved, you should focus your efforts on reassuring the kids and dealing with their emotional problems. Common issues for children and teens whose parents divorce include:
- Academic problems and loss of interest in favorite activities
- Anxiety, childlike regression, and neediness
- Disruptive behavior that includes illegal activities
- Alcohol and substance abuse
- Risk-taking behavior
- Argumentative attitude
- Dramatic changes in personality
Most of these behavioral problems are simply a cry for attention and reassurance. It would help if you had a frank discussion with your kids when you decide to separate or divorce. Reassure them that none of the issues between you and your spouse is their fault and try to get them to look at the benefits of having two loving parents who desperately want to share custody.
Different Strokes for Different Families
Try to stay as transparent as possible, although some personal matters must remain private. Tell the children the same thing. How divorce impacts children varies widely, and you can try to make the best of a bad situation — such as pointing out that the children now have two homes with different vibes.
The worst thing you could do is pretend everything’s fine when it is not. Kids pick up quickly on dishonesty, and you should talk out your problems or decide to call it quits. Enlist an attorney to serve as a go-between if you find it difficult to maintain equilibrium around a spouse that you want to divorce.