Although divorcing spouses go through a laundry list of emotions, it is the children who are most vulnerable in a divorce. Regardless of their age, children are permanently affected by their parents’ divorce.
Inexplicably many adults cannot place their children’s needs above their own. And, as a consequence, the children often suffer. Sometimes a parent ignores his children, spending more time and energy on a new relationship. Children can feel neglected or unimportant, leading to a deterioration in the relationship with the absent parent.
Parents sometimes introduce a new significant other to the children while they are still mourning their parents’ separation and divorce and a wholesale change in the world they know. Such a premature introduction can heighten a child’s insecurity and cause the opposite reaction to the parent’s new friend than was intended. Change is difficult for all of us and, although children are generally pretty adaptable, too much change all at once can have catastrophic consequences.
Sometimes children are seen as confidants or even confederates to parents who feel aggrieved by a spouse. However, confiding details of the martial breakup or using children as spies is wholly inappropriate and puts a child in a position for which he or she is unprepared and emotionally ill equipped to handle.
The most insignificant comment a parent makes to a child can have a lifetime effect – even in an intact family. What a parent says or does in the context of a divorce can be magnified many times over.
Bank accounts, real estate, and automobiles are important, but children are the most precious assets of a divorcing couple. They are not things. They are people. They have needs and they have feelings. They need their parents to protect them. Their feelings can be fragile.
Adults must recognize this, understand this, and, above all, always put the children’s needs first. Sometimes that can be difficult, but that is what parents should and must do. Anything less can lead to a breakdown in the parent’s relationship with the child, psychological issues for the child, or, in extreme cases, antisocial behavior. No one would consciously want to bring about any of these consequences. Yet, they can all result from a self-centered failure to place the children’s needs first. Be ever conscious of the children’s needs and vigilant so the children can survive the divorce in one piece.