Your home has become a war zone. You and your husband are always fighting — or it’s eerily silent — and you are both miserable. What was supposed to be happily ever after has become an ordeal you cannot escape. Or can you?
A voice inside your head whispers, again and again, “Should I divorce?”
While another voice asks desperately, “What about the kids?”
If the word divorce sends chills up your spine then you have one thing going for you – you aren’t taking this decision lightly. It means something and this scares you. That’s good – very good. Divorce is never easy – on anyone involved. It changes your life and those changes are not always good — especially for your kids. But will getting a divorce ruin them? If you aren’t sure, then we need to talk.
Divorce isn’t always good. But, it isn’t always bad either. Like any other big decision in life it can go either way. Your job as a mom is making the best decision you can; working hard to limit the fallout; and helping your kids persevere through it all.
The Impact of Divorce Isn’t Always Clear
If you have been contemplating a break-up, maybe Googling “Should I divorce?” at various intervals in your life, odds are good you have been scouting out information about how it will impact your kids. Maybe you have read a few articles that cite all kinds of bad things that will happen to your kids: like, they will develop behavioral problems; they won’t be able to sustain a lasting relationship of their own in the future; they will fail in school; or they will become young parents.
As a mother, you may be focusing on these negative reports, fearing the decision you are making. But there is another side to this story. There are plenty of reports that contradict these negative findings. One study done at Dartmouth indicated that 75-80% of children from divorced homes showed no lasting psychological effects from their parents’ breakup. Another study showed that 42% of young adults who came from divorced households received higher well-being scores than their counterparts who came from a two-parent household.
When asking yourself, “Should I divorce my husband?” consider this important fact: a 2012 study at Notre Dame University showed that parents who fight in front of kindergarten age children set their kids up for depression, anxiety and behavioral problems at a much higher rate than those who decide to end their marriages. This study indicates that it is not necessarily the act of divorce that causes problems for kids, but the inability of the parent’s to provide a calm and loving environment that does the most harm.
Other studies suggest it is actually how you navigate the divorce process that dictates how well your children will recover.
How Divorce Can Benefit Your Kids (Yes, We Said That!)
Life is tough sometimes, and kids need to learn that no matter how tough it gets, they will survive. So, while you worry that ending a bad marriage is going to ruin your kids, statistics show that it can actually help make them stronger, happier people. Here are just some of the things that kids learn when parents divorce:
- Conflict resolution: Divorce can show kids how to overcome conflict. While it is a dramatic way to solve your marital strife, it does show a positive way to solve problems — as opposed to staying in a spin cycle of pain.
- Co-parenting can means more parental involvement: statistics show that kids in shared custody situations actually spend more quality time with each individual parent. The Journal and Marriage & Family says that “quality time with your kids has a bigger impact than quantity of time spent in their presence.”
- What real happiness is: a household wrought with strife is chaotic and can even feel emotionally unsafe to your kids. But, when the parents finally end the marriage, the stress –and the fighting – is relieved. This can help kids experience life without the chaos; showing them a difference from what they have known. And also, that people have choices as to how they can live.
- Perseverance: life doesn’t always go as planned. When kids see their parents’ reviving after a failed marriage they learn how to persevere through the tough times and create a new beginning, too.
The Negative Side of Divorce
Of course, we all know that divorce is not always pretty. A bad marriage can turn into a worse divorce. Ending a marriage can bring out the worst in people, especially when kids are involved. If you cannot find a way to get along with your husband during and after the divorce, ending your marriage could do more harm than good when it comes to your kids’ future.
Statistics show that the trauma of divorce can send kids reeling. In some cases they experience an increase in depression, anxiety, behavioral problems; issues in the future connecting with others; trust issues; and more.
Add to that the negative financial impact many divorces have on mothers and children, and you are getting the picture of a different kind of stress. If you have a hard time financially caring for your children after a divorce, it will impact everything about their life. This may limit their involvement in extra-curricular activities like sports and music lessons; where they live; and the friends they make; as well as their ability to continue their education after high school. All of this can impact the quality of their adult lives.
Should I Divorce My Husband?
This is a question with no easy answer. If you are living in an abusive or dangerous situation or your husband is an addict, then it may be time to get out. We know that can be hard. But get help. If your struggles are another variety, it may be best for your kids to stick it out and work on those problems. Consider professional assistance so you learn how to do things differently. It is always best to work on your marriage, but remember, if your home is wrought with chaos, your kids will be harmed. Unhappy parents = unhappy kids. With 1.5 million children facing divorce annually, the fact remains kids do overcome this change in their lives – and many actually thrive afterwards.
Is it time to give up on your marriage? Only you know the answer to that. And do not expect 100 percent clarity to the answer. Consider speaking to a professional to help you as a couple; or a divorce coach to help you evaluate what is real and what is not. Your kids are clearly a major part of your decision, but don’t let them be the deciding factor as to whether you stick it out or not. In the end you have to do what’s best for the entire family – including yourself, your husband, and your kids.
As mothers we are hardwired to put our children first. So, if you are stuck wondering, “Should I divorce?” ask yourself if this is the kind of relationship you would want your kids to have in their adult lives? For support, guidance and next steps now, consider joining SAS’ Annie’s Group, a divorce support online, learning community teaching you what a woman must know as she considers, or navigates divorce. Class begins April 10th at noon EST, and space is limited. Schedule your chat to learn if this support-centered education is right for you.