Children of divorced parents –
The disrupted being!

A few years ago, a divorce was seen to affect the children as much as one was suffering from a cold. After that people recognized that a child might suffer a serious flu and now the view is emerging that many children, especially 4 to 12 years old, suffer serious damage when the parents get divorced. Children suffer from unhappy marriages and divorces. Almost every third marriage will be divorced, mostly in the fourth year of existence - more than 200 000 marriages per year. Most of the children experience the divorce of the parents when they are between three and thirteen years old. This is a crucial and unlucky period of development to experience a divorce.

The divorce precedes a long time of conflict between the parents. A time of shock, fear and angriness is starting for the children when they experience that the marriage of the parents is broken. Children have two very specific requirements during this critical time: First, they require more emotional support when they try to adjust to the new conditions of life. Second, they are dependent on a regular and trusted daily routine.

Unfortunately the parents have their own problems and fears during that time and so cannot help their children properly. A child can hardly understand or accept if the father or mother is leaving the house one day – in this way the child is disrupted by emotions, reacts confused and fearful.
His deeper security, which was an expression of living together with his parents, deteriorates. To be detached from father or mother hurts every child. The child is experiencing a hard loss through the break-up of one part of the family, which definiteness even the parents do not want to accept sometimes.

Moreover parents make it themselves easy with the sentence: ‘Nothing is worse for children than a marriage in conflict.’ That this assumption is too weak reveals a new study from the USA. Children are feeling better in normal relationships with occasional conflict than children of divorced parents. 52 % of parents which experienced a seemingly ‘good’ divorce say their life was more difficult after their divorce. Only 35 % of parents said that while experiencing ‘unhappy’ relationships and only 6 % out of ‘happy’ families.
This confusion is an effect of the authority of definition by adults. What is good for them is also good for their children. A divorce surely can be better than a continued conflict relationship, but even the ‘better version’ can be very often difficult for the children. As long as the parents are married it is their responsibility to solve their conflict. As soon as they are divorced the conflict is the task of the children.

The life of children of divorced parents is more difficult, not least since the parents are having opposed positions after the divorce. Children have the monumental task of understanding the different value systems of mother and father. Due to the fact that they also need to act differently according to location they experience much more secrets and lies than in functioning families.
Answering the question ‘what did you do when you were in need of comfort?’, 69 % out of functioning families answered they went to their parents, while only 33 % children out of divorced relationships went for consultation to their parents.
Even though children out of divorced parents live more commonly with their mothers, the relationship to the mother is as much damaged as to the father. Almost three times as many children from divorced parents (38 %) are declaring: ‘There are things which my mother has done, which I almost can never forget.’ These are only saying 13 % out of functioning families. 51 % of children from divorced parents say the same about their father compared to 17 % of children from functioning families.

A certain number of highly conflicted marriages will always end up in divorce. For some marriages which are marked by abuse or even incest is divorce a life saving option.
For me as a systematic coach, I am concerned with the orientation towards the child and the recognition of the emotional disaster, to which many children have to go through as a result of a divorce.
A child is not only a victim of divorce when it is marked as an underperformer in school. Even the super-independent, often lonely carers for the mother are disrupted beings. The fact that they do not become depressed is not an indication that the divorce has not influenced their life.