In the heartwarming Robin Williams classic film, Mrs. Doubtfire, there is a beautiful line toward the end of the movie, where Daniel as Mrs Doubtfire reads out a letter from a child on his children's TV show:
[reading a letter] "Dear Mrs. Doubtfire, two months ago, my mom and dad decided to separate. Now they live in different houses. My brother Andrew says that we aren't to be a family anymore. Is this true? Did I lose my family? Is there anything I can do to get my parents back together? Sincerely, Katie McCormick." Oh, my dear Katie. You know, some parents, when they're angry, they get along much better when they don't live together. They don't fight all the time, and they can become better people, and much better mummies and daddies for you. And sometimes they get back together. And sometimes they don't, dear. And if they don't, don't blame yourself. Just because they don't love each other anymore, doesn't mean that they don't love you. There are all sorts of different families, Katie. Some families have one mommy, some families have one daddy, or two families. And some children live with their uncle or aunt. Some live with their grandparents, and some children live with foster parents. And some live in separate homes, in separate neighborhoods, in different areas of the country - and they may not see each other for days, or weeks, months... even years at a time. But if there's love, dear... those are the ties that bind, and you'll have a family in your heart, forever. All my love to you, poppet, you're going to be all right... bye-bye.
This film ends on a good note with the protagonists deciding to stay happily divorced. The kids seem happy as well, following shared custody and shuttling between parents. But how true does this stand in real life?
In a study involving 1000 families in the UK, it was found that "There is no such thing as a good divorce when children are involved. The analysis found that children suffer when their parents' marriage ends — no matter how amicable the split."
Elizabeth Marquardt, in her article Just Whom Is This Divorce 'Good' For? in the Washington Post, wrote:
Many people incorrectly assume that most marriages end only when parents are at each other's throats. But the reasons can often be far less urgent, like boredom or the midlife blahs. Research shows that two-thirds of divorces now end low-conflict marriages, where there is no abuse, violence or serious fighting. After those marriages end, the children suddenly struggle with a range of symptoms -- anxiety, depression, problems in school -- that they did not previously have. The waxing and waning cycles of adult unhappiness that characterize many marriages are often not all that obvious to children. For the children of low-conflict marriages, divorce is a massive blow that comes out of nowhere.
Do we need more proof? How can divorce be good for a child? For a son or daughter, divorcing parents could just mean a downward spiral of confusion, embarrassment, depression and loneliness.
But strangely, in an age where divorce is becoming a common occurrence even in a country like ours, some folks believe that divorce could sometimes be a boon for the kids.
Pulitzer Prize-Winning Novelist and Essayist Jane Smiley, in her Huffington Post article Divorce! It's Good for the Children! wrote:
"When I asked my older daughter what she thought of my divorce from her father (she is 32), she said, "Do you really think I wish we had remained in that suffocating little four-person family?" Later she continues, "...when I've defended divorce in the past--notably in an Op-Ed for the New York Times, the response has been outrage. In America, you are never supposed to treat divorce with anything but appalled lamentations. No type of family is better than an intact nuclear family, ever."
In her video Can Divorce Ever Be Good For You?, she explains how an end to a suffering relationship and the beginning of new feelings should ever be a bad thing. Take a look.
Coming back to where we were about kids and divorce, here are some ways the experts believe how kids can actually benefit from divorce, messy or amicable. These pointers have been explained in detail in 5 Ways Divorce Benefits Kids.
1. When parents are happy, the kids are too. All the fights, quarreling, negativity can be replaced by happiness and freedom. The kids will be more relaxed. When the there is no tension in the house, the stress levels of both parents and kids will reduce.
2. You show your kids that you are not ready to settle for an unhealthy marriage.
3. Having shared custody post divorce, the kids can now have the opportunity to experience each parent as "mom and dad" as opposed to earlier when one parent would assume the nurturing and the other a disciplinarian role.
In closing to her piece Jane Smiley writes: "Falling in love is an expression of freedom and so is divorce. Freedom is, as they are always telling us, a responsibility. If we have the freedom to divorce, then we have to use it wisely."
Are you convinced with these pointers? Do you think a divorce is good for kids? Do you have an experience you would like to share? Do write in to us at Parenting.firstname.lastname@example.org and we will publish the best responses.
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