Jun 21, 2022
Through a Child’s Eyes – Part 3 : Damage
This is Part III of Through a Child’s Eyes. Divorcing while having children adds a level of complexity that no one will know and understand until they live through it (which I do not wish on anyone). The first part addressed two simple questions: How did you feel when you first found out your parents were divorcing, and how should parents tell their children they are getting divorced? Part II addressed questions relating to what happened next and the feelings that followed along with ways in which the “child” learned to cope with the newly added stress.
Christine Lombardo-Zaun, Esq., an attorney-mediator at Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation, continues her series about divorce though a child’s eyes and discusses stress and resulting damage to child/young post divorce.
I know divorce is very hard on the parents. They have adult responsibilities such as having to work, pay bills, take care of their children (regardless of their age), and keep it all together while divorcing. It is not easy, and it is understandable that those parents will become emotionally hijacked, overwhelmed, and will say and do things they do not mean. All parents who have divorced should read this, even if it is to pick out one good piece of advice.
I interviewed a few courageous “children” of parents who divorced. These interviewees are young adults, so the word child in this blog is used generally. In this part I am going to address two questions relating to some of the most damaging things that happened to the child, and now that the divorce is final legally, what are the stresses of the child/young adult. For some people, they think that once the divorce decree arrives, that the skies will clear up and they will be able to start over. This is not the case for the children, who are still left with some collateral damage of that divorce. Note that anything written below in [ ] are my comments and not those of the interviewee.
Q: What were some of the most damaging things that happened to you during your parents’ divorce?
A: One of the biggest things I can remember is that my dad was angry with me, and he made a comment and said I was just like my mother. He was angry, but what he did not understand is that was a hurtful thing to say because even though he hates my mom, she is still my mom. I love both of my parents. I am still connected to both of them even though they are no longer together. [This can be considered parental alienation. It is highly inappropriate and very damaging to a child. The insulting parent is angry, and emotional, but what they are really doing is insulting their own child who sees themselves in BOTH parents, for better and for worse.]
I was in college when my parents’ divorce happened, so when I would call or speak to one of my parents I felt as if I was still being treated like a child. This was during a time when I was desperately trying to learn how to be on my own. I did not like the way I was being treated, and I felt like I was not respected by them as a young adult. Being at college sort of made my parents’ divorce more difficult because they did not have an amicable divorce, and they were still fighting which made me feel more disconnected. I did not have that “family” that I could go home and visit. My holiday breaks were split between two homes. I felt isolated as my friends would see their parents as a couple at sporting events, and mine were taking turns seeing me so they were not near each other. I felt like an outcast.
These particular answers really made me think about the effects of divorce on children. May was Mental Health Awareness month. There are numerous studies that cite that over 50% and in some cases over 70% of college students have reported poor mental health and anxiety disorders. As an attorney mediator who also happens to be a college professor, these statistics concern me a great deal. Remember, these kids did not ask for this! The studies do indicate there are a number of institutions who are addressing this and are offering support for this elevated level of stress.
As a caveat, this is anecdotal advice from young adults who have and are experiencing their parent’s divorce. This does not mean this advice will work for all families. This also comes from young adults, so differing ages of the children might require different strategies. Consult with Alpha Resource Center for more guidance and valuable resources on this delicate topic. Next month we will continue this series with Part 4 and the stresses that have come after the divorce was finalized.
Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation