It may sound odd, but children can benefit from their parents’ divorce
Much has been written about the damage caused to children by divorce, but is there another side to the story? Are there ways in which children benefit from divorce? Experts believe they can and do. Let’s look at some of the ways divorce might be beneficial for children.
Re-levelling the playing field
Some of the benefits come from simply eliminating negatives. Children suffer when parents continually clash. If the home is a high-conflict zone, children can experience stress, divided loyalties, and even emotional trauma. Resolution of that conflict via divorce can return the child to a peaceful and harmonious home atmosphere, even if it means not having both parents under one roof.
A return to high-quality parenting
Healthy, mentally stable parents don’t deliberately neglect their children. But sometimes the act of divorcing takes such a toll on couples that children get sidelined. They are still cared for, and to the observer it may appear that nothing is amiss. But parents are only human, and when their emotional energy is completely absorbed in the process of uncoupling, there may be little left over for their children. In different families this will manifest itself in different ways. Some children may lack discipline, as parents are distracted and willing to overlook behaviour that might otherwise be reprimanded. Other children may be ignored or not fully engaged. Family outings are unlikely to happen, and quality time between parent and child may be a casualty of the divorce process. Parents are too focused on themselves, or simply too exhausted.
So when the divorce is finalised, and a new normality descends, children are likely to enjoy better parenting and more, higher-quality time with each parent.
Children in two-parent families often crave solo time with each parent. After divorce, children spend time with their parents in turn, so they benefit from attention from mom and dad individually. Where there is more than one child in the family, parents may make arrangements for contact to be split occasionally, so each parent has some time alone with each child.
Twice as many holidays!
Children of divorce often joke that they get more holidays than their friends because each parent takes them on holiday separately. This is often true, though the converse can also occur: reduced financial circumstances make holidays impossible. But commuting between two households has other benefits for children. They may make new friends near the second household. One or other parent (or both) may remarry or form new relationships, introducing siblings to the family unit. This does not always go smoothly, but, over time, those sibling relationships can come to be an important source of love and support, especially for an only child.
Children inevitably learn a lot about relationships through the experience of divorce. While we might prefer to be positive role models for our children, they also learn from our mistakes and our foibles. If the parents manage to overcome their differences and co-parent responsibly and effectively, children can learn a lot about respect, conflict resolution and forgiveness. Parents – especially mothers – often become more self-sufficient or learn new skills after divorce, setting a positive example of personal development.
Children also learn how to handle their own emotions, especially if they have help to cope with the divorce. The very act of going through and emerging from the divorce can bring maturity and independence to a child, particularly an adolescent. They learn emotional intelligence. They may also step up in terms of responsibility, helping out around the house or supporting siblings. Divorce can (ironically) sometimes bring a family together.
Many divorced parents speak of their children’s resilience and adaptability. Divorce teaches survival mechanisms and coping strategies, which can stand a child in good stead throughout life. There is often an increased sense of empathy and compassion. Seeing a parent’s vulnerabilities teaches that even the strongest people in our lives can be hurt and, more importantly, can recover from hurt. It can bring out caring traits in children, and help children cope with their own hurts. Children learn that change is inevitable and they become more able to adapt to new environments.
There is light at the end of the tunnel
Divorce IS hard on children. Acknowledging that there are benefits does not mean ignoring the pain. Children need a lot of love and support and reassurance when parents are divorcing. But if you are going through a divorce right now with children, it can help to know that your kids may emerge stronger, more resilient and ultimately happier.
Get professional help with parenting issues
SD Law is a Cape Town law firm with expertise in family law. If you need help with child care and contact (custody and access) or a parenting plan, or if you have any questions about the Children’s Act and Amendment Bill, call Cape Town attorney Simon Dippenaar on 086 099 5146 or email email@example.com. We’ve helped many families reach agreement on complex parenting issues.
Further reading on divorce:
- Children and divorce
- “I co-parent with my ex, but he threatens me and expects sex”
- Help your children through a divorce
The information on this website is provided to assist the reader with a general understanding of the law. While we believe the information to be factually accurate, and have taken care in our preparation of these pages, these articles cannot and do not take individual circumstances into account and are not a substitute for personal legal advice. If you have a legal matter that concerns you, please consult a qualified attorney. Simon Dippenaar & Associates takes no responsibility for any action you may take as a result of reading the information contained herein (or the consequences thereof), in the absence of professional legal advice.