A Child’s Perspective on Divorce

By Monica McParland
Categories: Blog, Family Law

As a Family Law Lawyer who is also a divorced parent, some of my most challenging cases are those involving an acrimonious child custody dispute. Parties undergoing separation and divorce retain counsel for legal advice and direction during one of the most stressful times of their lives. Separating spouses need to navigate the complex legal, emotional and financial issues during a time of tremendous change and upheaval in their lives. Many clients have expressed that the process of separation and divorce is likely the most stressful experience in their adult life.

It is not surprising therefore that many family law clients often struggle with a wide range of emotions including shock, anger, grief, uncertainty, sadness, betrayal, anxiety, confusion, and loss of self-esteem. The majority of my clients are eventually able to find their way to a place of forgiveness and closure, although the time it takes to find this path varies widely.

Despite the fact that both parents love their children deeply, there are times when some parents become so focused on their own emotional baggage that they overlook the impact of their animosity toward their former spouse is having upon their children. Parents caught up in feelings of anger and resentment toward their spouse can sometimes be oblivious to how their attitude and conduct may be affecting their children. I recently came across a very powerful video which very succinctly summarizes a child’s perspective and highlights for parents how children experience their parents’ divorce:

Video provided by The Child of Divorce and ChristainWorks for Children

I encourage my clients to realize that children living through their parents’ divorce are very likely experiencing many of the same emotions as their parents. However child psychologists have noted that children lack the maturity to fully understand and process the complex emotions. In addition children are vulnerable to feeling “caught in the middle” of their parents’ dispute because their parents conduct is creating conflicting loyalties. Children want to maintain their relationship with both parents. Although Mom and Dad don’t love each other anymore children very much want to continue to love both Mom and Dad. Research shows that children benefit when their parents consciously keep the children out of the dispute between the adults. Children benefit when they hear positive remarks about one parent from the other, and when they are reassured that their relationship with both their parents is important and valuable. I encourage my clients to reinforce with their children that they need not choose one parent over the other. Child psychologists agree that what children need is permission and freedom to continue to love and cherish both of their parents, even after their parents are no longer living together.