Being Responsible to Our Children of Divorce
By Bill Schacht, MS, LCSW
When you were preparing for the birth of your first child, you and your spouse may have read the book What To Expect When You Are Expecting. Over 21 million of us bought the book and who knows how many of us passed it along.
Why did we read it? Because we realized an event that would change our lives forever was quickly upon us. Never having gone through it before, even though we had observed countless others go through it, we wanted to be as prepared as possible. So, we did our due diligence to give us the best chance for success.
Allow me to suggest that going through family separation is a much longer and painful journey for a child than being born.
In a related story, I recently spoke to a group of City Health Department Directors about the impact of family separation and divorce on children. I got their attention by asking them to imagine that a new disease had come into their communities to which 50% of the children would be exposed. I told them that children exposed to this disease were observed as follows:
• 50% more health problems than children not exposed.
• Teens are 3 times more apt to be diagnosed with a psychological disorder.
• Six years after being exposed to the disease these children reported being significantly more lonely, unhappy, anxious, and insecure as their unexposed peers.
• Twice as apt not to graduate from high school.
• Three times as apt to have a baby out of wedlock.
• 10 times more apt to be sexually abused.
• 12 times as likely to end up in prison.
I told the Directors there was more bad news, but we did not have the time to go through it all.
I asked them, if their communities were exposed, would they declare this disease a major health risk and develop programs for prevention, early detection, and effective treatment of it. They assured me that all of their communities would do so. When I told them these were statistics on kids of divorce, I asked them if their City Health Departments would consider creating a community divorce prevention program. Soft chuckles and looks of stark reality were their responses.
As adults, some of us chose divorce; for others it was thrust upon us. For all of the children involved, divorce is not a choice. All experience the consequences.
I do not believe I have ever met a child who was not in some way negatively affected by divorce. A child’s age is not a factor. Our children ages 2 through 42 take a hit – the range of negative impact is wide.
Allow me to assert that, as PEOPLE OF DIVORCE and as an Association, we have a fundamental responsibility to thoroughly understand the potential negative impact of divorce on our kids. We must age appropriately educate them as to the risks. We must create and engage each of them in a plan which minimizes the negative impact of divorce and provides them with the support and resources they need to continue to function to their potential and enjoy life on a daily basis in the face of the many challenges of family separation.
To not do so is simply irresponsible.
Most of us read these statistics and believe they are true. We are appalled by them. However, too many of us will also have an ego preservation thought like, “Yeah, but it won’t happen to my kid.” In 34 years of clinical experience, I have learned that which kids will be hit hardest is not predictable.
PEOPLE OF DIVORCE – The Association membership will educate itself on the negative impact of divorce on children. We will provide a seminars and ongoing education that supports members to help their kids reduce the impact. We will provide support and resources to parents and children on achieving our goal of never going through it again!
There is no quick fix. This takes dedicated time, concentrated learning, and ongoing effort. Learning how to provide and deliver effective co-parenting from two households is a monumental task in-and-of-itself.
Our kids are counting on us. Their quality of life is at stake.
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