I met a woman today who is currently going through a divorce. She was married for 21 years and has two teenagers. We talked for a bit about the divorce itself… the relationship she had with her husband, the problems, the causes of the breakdown in the marriage. Then I asked her how the kids were taking it. She said they were taking it well. The marriage had been in decline for sometime and the kids were old enough to understand and see what was going on. Not a high-conflict divorce, more silence and tension than anything. The kids didn’t seem to be surprised when they were told of the divorce. And she made a point to mention that there were several intact, healthy marriages in the family, so the kids know what one looks like. I’m not sure why she mentioned that, but it seemed to me that that thought gives her hope that they will have a chance at having lasting marriages in the future. I hope so.

What I wonder is this? How well are the kids really taking it? No doubt they are cautious to reveal to their parents how they really feel. I know I was (still am in some ways). As kids we were brought to counselors to work out our issues, but I was still hesitant. After all, who hired those counselors? I could never feel confident that something I said wouldn’t get back to my parents. And counseling was so intense.

Parents, if you are going through a divorce or are divorced already, be realistic about what your kids are going through. The family structure they have known their entire lives has come to an end. Divorce is extremely common, but that doesn’t lessen the effects. Acknowledge that they are hurting, validate their feelings. Chances are they won’t feel comfortable sharing their deepest hurts and feelings with you, so make sure they have someone else to go to for support, someone who is neutral and unbiased and can be trusted. Children are very sensitive to the pain you are going through and will often go to great lengths to try and ease your pain, including stuffing their feelings and pretending they are okay with the changes.

We know divorce happens. It sucks. The effects can be profound and lasting. With some love, care, and patience I believe we can cause the positive effects to outweight the bad.