What is it like to have divorced parents as a child?

What is it like to have divorced parents as a child?

Generally worse than having non-divorced parents.

I do not state that to offend divorced parents. Most (not all) divorced parents who are honest with themselves would agree with me.

Most divorced parents who, when they themselves were children, experienced their own parents’ divorce would agree with me too.

To be sure, there are some marriages that are better off ending in divorce. There are married people who would be better off divorced, and some children would be better off if their parents divorced.

But generally speaking, kids of divorced parents have it worse than kids of parents who are not dysfunctionally married. And the reasons why are no mystery.

The family is the fundamental building block of a sound society. Like it or not, kids who don’t have strong families are at a disadvantage. If you go through life trying to deny it (instead of doing your best to compensate for it), you’ll spend a lot of time and suffer a lot of pain and frustration needlessly.

Children do best when reared by a loving mother and father. They learn about teamwork, compromise, sacrifice, delayed gratification, and civil dispute resolution, just to name a few. Girls learn to love and pick good men if they have and observe a good father. Boys learn to love and pick good women if they have and observe a good mother. Children have a better life, a better upbringing with the support of two parents than with the support of just one.

There are plenty of people who were reared by a single parent due to divorce or death and yet grew up happy and responsible citizens. Obviously, a single-parent upbringing and being a child of divorce does not condemn a child to a life of certain and severe misery, but it’s rarely an easier path to physically and psychologically healthy children than is being reared by two married parents.

Divorced parents—no matter how devoted they are to their children—typically have less time to spend with their children because they have to shoulder all the burdens of parenthood and earning a livelihood essentially by themselves. Children of divorce generally have less parental oversight and supervision, so they often (not always) learn less self-discipline and good habits. Idle hands and minds become the devil’s workshop.

May I offer a few words of advice too?

If you are a child of divorce and hunger for more human contact (regardless of how much you love or dislike your divorced parent(s)), please don’t look for love in all the wrong places. Many bad choices made in childhood have irreparable consequences. Evil people exist who know how vulnerable kids of divorce feel, and they prey on them. So stay alert.

But don’t be afraid to accept real care and love either. Don’t retreat into your shell. Resist feeling like a second-class person; that feeling is not real. Seek out good examples of maturity and good character as your mentors. It’s not just OK to see these people as “supplementary” parents, it’s smart. Look to God. And look to grandparents, aunts and uncles, ministers, neighbors, teachers, coaches, counselors, parents of your friends. If they are willing to help, let them help. You deserve to seek out and grasp every benefit of trying to be a good kid who is growing into a good adult. It may feel counterintuitive, but people who know they’ll benefit from help and get it are stronger than those who are too proud to admit they need help and refuse it.

If your divorced mom and/or dad feel disrespected by your efforts, explain to them that you’re doing this as much for them as for you. You know they are shouldering the work of 2 (or perhaps 1 and 1/2) parents and know that at times you may really need more than they can give. All parents—married or otherwise—need the help of other good influences in their children’s upbringing. A humble and wise divorced parent will not resent you for getting the help and direction you may need on those occasions when Mom or Dad can’t (or won’t) provide it all.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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