There is no easy answer to the question, “should you stay together for the children’s sake?” I do believe that we, as parents owe it to our children to put as much effort as possible into making our marriage work. In other words, no parent should divorce without first putting their child’s need for an intact family before their need for a divorce.
Nothing can motivate us to better our situation more than putting another’s needs before our own. It has been my observation that the majority of parents who divorce don’t seek marital therapy before doing so. The relationship goes south and the solution is divorce. A solution that fits their needs but research has shown is difficult for their children.
It is for that reason; the negative effects of divorce on children, that I believe parents should be committed to making sure they create a marriage that is nurturing for not only themselves but their children also. Until you’ve done all you possibly can to make sure your marriage can’t be saved, divorce should not be an option.
Reasons to stay together for the children’s sake:
Over the last several decades’ research has shown that children benefit tremendously when raised by parents in a healthy marriage. Here are a few of the benefits for children of a healthy, intact family:
- They’re less likely to divorce as adults,
- They have fewer emotional problems,
- They’re less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol,
- They’re more likely to attend college than children from divorced parents,
- They’re less likely to engage in delinquent behavior as teens,
- They’ll make smarter relationship choices and are less likely to become victims of domestic abuse,
- They have better relationships with both parents,
- They’re less likely to become sexually active as young teens,
- They’re less likely to experience teen pregnancy,
- They experience a more financially secure lifestyle as children.
Reasons NOT to Stay Together for the Children’s Sake:
People divorce for many reasons. If your only reason for divorce is that you’ve “grown apart,” or you are “unhappy” then please, work on your marriage. With marriage comes an obligation, one that means working on the marriage in spite of times of unhappiness or emotional distance between the spouses.
If, however, there is domestic abuse, verbal abuse, addiction or serial infidelity leaving the marriage may be the best thing you can do for your children. In order for children to have healthy relationships, they need to have an example of what a healthy relationship is. If your marriage is full of conflict you are teaching your children lessons that could set them up to fail in future adult relationships.
According to sociologist Paul Amato of Penn State University, there are “two categories of children who are most at risk for future psychological problems:
Those children who grow up with parents who stay married but remain conflicted and hostile toward each other, and those whose parents are in low-conflict marriages and divorce anyway.”
If your marriage is full of conflict, a divorce could benefit your children in many ways. Here are five reasons it is best to end a high-conflict marriage:
- You will remove your children from the anxiety produced by their parents’ conflict.
- Children need to have warm, loving and supportive relationships with parents. The parent who removes them from an environment that is highly conflicted and violent is showing that child that they are loved and supported.
- A child’s basic needs include feelings of safety and security. Divorcing a violent spouse means you are making sure those basic needs are met.
- Some research suggests that children exposed to domestic abuse suffer developmentally and do not form attachments to parents. There are higher rates of “disorganized attachment” amongst these children.
- Children raised in high conflict can become hyper-vigilant in reaction to perceived conflict or threats. Being around violence and conflict can cause children to become hostile and aggressive in their dealings with others.
Basically, when it comes to divorce and children a parent should do what they know to be in their child’s best interest. In the case of low conflict marriages, it is best to keep the family intact. In the case of high conflict and violent marriages, children fair better if their parent’s divorce. Ultimately the choice belongs to the children.
Please keep this in mind: if your children are currently happy and secure in their family (which is more-or-less-impossible if you and your spouse are constantly arguing, sneering at, or ridiculing each other), you should consider their needs and happiness when deciding whether or not to divorce now. If your children are anxious, depressed, or acting out due to obvious hostility in your marriage, however, please consider the harm you are doing to them if you decide to stay in a high-conflict or abusive marriage.
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