“Divorce affects our very sense of being in the world.” – Joel Mayward
“Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.’” – Bible
When I attend school class reunions, I have learned to be very careful in discussing families with friends from long ago. Many of them are no longer married, or more likely they have a different spouse, and they talk about their children from their multiple relationships.
Separation and divorce are very common in our society today. It is easy to obtain a divorce, and there is no longer much of a stigma attached to it. We all have experienced divorce – in our immediate family or at least in close friends.
Divorce happens. It’s kind of like car accidents. Sometimes we have accidents because of our own poor driving habits, or because we make wrong choices, e.g. driving while drinking. Sometimes we are innocent victims of someone else’s mistakes, e.g. someone runs into us. But they happen.
So we accept the fact that such events happen, understand that they have consequences and learn how to deal with them.
The impact on children from divorce has been studied extensively. Consider one of the most significant effects on children: children of divorced parents suffer more frequently from symptoms of psychological distress. And the emotional scars of divorce last into adulthood.
I repeat: “The emotional scars of divorce last into adulthood.” Children of divorce carry many scars, a lot of them unseen, but often very painful. These children grow up. They are you and me.
Psychologists say children of divorce should be helped to understand that the divorce of parents was not their fault. They should feel no blame or guilt.
Children of divorce need continued assurance and love from both biological parents.
They need stability. But they still hurt. Something very fundamental has suffered a devastating blow.
Andrew Root is the author of a book entitled “The Children of Divorce: The Loss of Family as the Loss of Being.”
Root uses as an analogy the story line from the movie “Back to the Future.” In his travels back in time Marty encounters his parents before he is born – and tries to keep them from divorcing so that he will not disappear from existence. Kind of scary to think about.
Root’s contention is that divorce creates a similar feeling in children of divorce.
Quoting Root: “When a young person is informed of her parents’ divorce, it might be that her deepest questions are about her being: How can I be at all now that Mom and Dad aren’t together? Now that they are two [no longer one in marriage], she is unavoidably divided. She has one room at Mom’s and another at Dad’s, one schedule at Dad’s and another at Mom’s.”
We are not simply the product of chaos with no sense of being in relationship; we are designed for a purpose. God created us for relationship and to exist in a community. The most immediate community is a family.
Joel Mayward, a youth pastor, makes the following observation. “For each of us, the most significant and core of these communities is the one made up of a biological mother and father. Without their community, there would be no child. So when that community is destroyed, it is a threat to the child’s being. Divorce, therefore, should be seen as not just the split of a social unity, but the break of the community in which the child’s identity rests.”
Our young people who are children of divorce, or of separated parents who never married in the first place, join gangs to find family, usually with tragic results.
What do we do as adults? Perhaps the best we can do is to recognize why we hurt, and then seek community. Quoting Root again: We need a community “that sees children of divorce, acknowledges their reality, and embraces them in the fullness of their experience.”
The Family and Marriage Coalition of Aiken Inc. (FAMCO) provides resources for you to succeed in your marriage and families. Roger Rollins, executive director of FAMCO, 640-4689, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.aikenfamco.com.