Parents often feel that divorce will ruin their children’s lives forever, and because of this stay in unhealthy and miserable marriages, “for the sake of the kids”. But the truth is that Children need to learn what true love is. They deserve to be in a peaceful home empty of angry hostile emotions. When a couple stays in an unhealthy marriage you are teaching them that THIS IS WHAT MARRIAGE LOOKS LIKE. Often the scars of living with unhappy parents are much worse than the scars of divorce. Children learn how to act in relationships by the models in their lives. If you are modeling that a marriage is bad communication, disrespect for your mate and sacrificing your voice at all costs, then that is what they will choose for their own marriage.
I often have my clients ask me to give them the answer, leave or stay! My answer to them is to make sure that they have done all that they can to save the marriage first. If it does not seem to be healing, you will know your own answer. It is then that it becomes easier to do what is right for your family. If it is divorce then one day you will be able to tell your children that you both TRIED! That is a much healthier lesson for them than suffering. In my practice I have seen a myriad of emotions from the children of divorce from anger, fear and sadness to absolute relief! Yep! Relief. Relief that they do not have to listen to the fighting anymore. Relief that the tears and hostility are no longer in the house. But most importantly, relief that they no longer feel responsible for their parents happiness.
Children are like barometers of all of the emotions in the home. They soak up the way mom is feeling that day, or the way Dad is talking that day. They know when a door is slammed, or when a parent yells at them for no reason, that something is wrong. Sadly, the children bear the load. They carry it with them when they go to school. It shows in their attitudes towards their peers. But most importantly it shows in their attitudes towards their self; i.e. their self esteem. So in the end, if you have tried to save the marriage, and if you have evaluated all sides of staying or leaving, the words “FOR THE SAKE OF THE KIDS” will have new meaning.
Shauna Hoffman is a Marriage Family Therapist in Private Practice in Santa Clarita CA.
She can be reached at (661) 714-5137 her website is www.workingonme.com