Children Can Break Patterns of Divorce Damage in Future Family Strength

Divorce establishes devastating patterns for children, making it all the more challenging for them to have their own healthy families.   Global media highlighted these facts this week.


The BBC ran a story on September 21, 2010 on the damage of divorce to children at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-11380470, which began, "Separating parents can do their children enormous harm by using them as a 'battlefield' and 'ammunition,' a senior family court judge has warned.  Sir Nicholas Wall, president of the Family Division of the High Court, said well-educated parents were particularly adept at using their children… Sir Nicholas said: 'People think that post-separation parenting is easy - in fact, it is exceedingly difficult, and as a rule of thumb my experience is that the more intelligent the parent, the more intractable the dispute.'"


The simple truth is that parents do not realize the damage they do to their children by the battles they wage over them.  But children love and have loyalty to both parents, and absorb negative reflections that are presented against their parents.  Parents denigrating each other destroys a child's self esteem.  "If a child's mother makes it clear to the child that his or her father is worthless - and vice versa - the child's sense of self-worth can be irredeemably damaged…. the separated parent's role in the lives of his or her children retains the same degree of importance as when the parents were living together, even if the opportunities to manifest the qualities which an absent parent can bring to his children may be limited." Read the entire article entitled Divorcing parents can 'damage' children, says judge by Katherine Sellgren, BBC News education reporter.


A day later, on September 22, 2010, CNN ran an article on children's reaction to divorce in the piece by Stephanie Chen entitled, Children of Divorce Vow to Break Cycle, Create Enduring Marriages [available at CNN].  After decades of divorce, it's no surprise that today are couples are comprised of at least one or both partners who come from a family with divorced parents. "But coming from a family that suffered marital discord can present challenges to the relationships of adult children of divorce, marriage experts say.

The risk of divorce is 50 percent higher when one spouse comes from a divorced home, and 200 percent higher risk when both of them do, says Nicholas Wolfinger, a professor of family and consumer studies at the University of Utah and author of 'Understanding the Divorce Cycle: The Children of Divorce in Their Own Marriages'.  Children of divorce are also 50 percent more likely to marry another child of divorce."

But adult children of divorce can break the pattern of damage – and more are doing so today.  The CNN piece gives a prime example: The Greens.

"By the time Zulema Green turned 12, her mother had been divorced three times. Her husband, Cory Green, was 3 when his father abandoned his family. As the Georgia couple recently celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary at an upscale restaurant overlooking Atlanta, their milestone represented a far more personal challenge for each of them: They didn't follow their parents' footsteps.
'I figured I can get married,' says Zulema Green, now a 31-year-old attorney. 'I can do it right.' Marriage counselors say they have seen marital strains affect the way a child perceives his or her romantic relationships. Zulema Green says she once approached her relationships with men cautiously. She had difficulty trusting and relying on other people. In an effort to not follow her mother's path to divorce court, she read dozens of books on relationships and divorce. Before she and her boyfriend got married, they enrolled in premarital counseling. 'We realized our parents' relationships affected our relationship, and we didn't want to have a failed marriage,' she said. 'There are already so many things against you when it comes to marriage. We wanted to make sure we knew as much as we could.'"

Bradford Wilcox, director of The National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, a research group that examines marriages, explained that some adult children of divorced parents avoid long-term relationships and marriages, while others become determined to make their own marriage last. "Divorce is a risk factor, but there's no such thing as a single sociological factor that dooms you to marital failure," Wilcox says. "It's important for couples to articulate their concerns to their boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse."

William J. Doherty, a professor at the Family Social Science Department of the University of Minnesota, says a failed marriage in the family might actually propel a child of divorce to get married, often times at an earlier age. "They [the couple] will cohabitate, or they are more eager to jump in," he says.

The Hines family presents another example of children breaking the patter of divorce.  "Elise and Terrance Hines of Colorado have lived through divorces within their families. Elise's parents divorced after more than two decades of marriage around her 26th birthday. Watching her parents' seemingly solid marriage break up caused her to question whether any marriage can last.
Terrance Hines recalled his own parents' divorce when he was 12, an event that produced stress and uncertainty during his teenage years. Now married for 14 years and with two children, the Hines' say they are proud that their marriage is different from their parents -- at least so far. They have learned to constantly communicate and talk through their problems. Unlike their parents, they say they support each other and demonstrate patience when one of them makes a mistake. 'Don't carry the baggage from your parents' divorce,' he said. 'They make their own decisions.' She added: Enjoy each other. Don't hold grudges. Laugh. And each day, the duo adheres tightly to one more motto, 'Divorce is not an option.'"


God's Word is key in breaking bad patterns and establishing good ones. 


"Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."  Deuteronomy 6:5-9


Be a pattern-breaker, and a pattern-setter in your family.  Children can break patterns established by the damage of divorce.  Future family strength depends on it - and carries great rewards for generations to come.



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