Hidden Consequences of Divorce
The unexpected legacy of divorce often leaves the mother, the father, and their children coping with the divorce in their own unique ways. Each person dealing with the divorce has their own needs. The way each individual deals with the hidden consequences of divorce determines the long-term success of the divorce.
A Mother's Struggle With the Unexpected Legacy of Divorce
Divorce for women can result in some unexpected consequences. For mothers going through a divorce, a divorce may leave them anxious or depressed. It is often difficult to deal with the daily tensions and arguments while working and trying to raise children with little support from the ex-husband. Often, mothers find that they must step in to the father role and take on untraditional tasks. Tossing a baseball, talking to children about sex, and teaching a teenager how to maintain a car are handled by fathers in many households. However, when the father has only periodic visitation, many divorced mothers find they need to learn about traditionally masculine things.
The unexpected legacy of divorce also includes the financial consequences of divorce, which can be devastating for children. For example, if a divorcing mother needs to move into more affordable housing and seek full-time employment, the children may feel abandoned.
Divorcing mothers may also find that they must provide consistent discipline. An unexpected consequence of sharing custody with the father is that rules change when the children are visiting with him. It is important for mothers to be consistent with their love and with their discipline.
A Father's Reaction
Fathers face their own difficulties in dealing with the unexpected legacy of divorce. Often times, fathers feel disregarded by their ex-spouse, their children, society, attorneys, and the courts. Father often feel as if the court system favors mothers and discriminates against fathers. Commonly, fathers who are not given full custody of the children feel as if they are mere visitors in the children's lives. It is important for fathers to stay connected to their children throughout the divorce process and afterwards. Many states require that divorced parents attend a parenting class. In addition, it is important to maintain a close relationship with the children throughout and after the divorce. Attend parent-teacher meetings, coach them in sports, and take them to their doctor's appointments. Try to understand their wants, needs, and desires. Support groups for fathers also provide much needed information and encouragement.
How Divorce Affects the Children
Parents often think of divorce as an opportunity to start anew and rebuild their lives. Children, however, view divorce differently. Children dealing with their parent's divorce often feel severely distressed when their parents' marriage falls apart. Some are devastated. Children will sometimes blame themselves for the end of the marriage and suffer from a lowered self-esteem.Most children will eventually get over their negative reactions to their parents' divorce. Once they discover that their parents are truly happier divorce than they were married, the children adjust to the divorce well. The key to attaining this well-being in children of divorce is to maintain a healthy parenting relationship even after the marriage relationship is dissolved. Regardless of which parent has custody of the children, the active involvement of both parents will make the adjustment to divorce easier for children.
To learn more about the impact of divorce on families, read The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce by Judith Wallerstein, Julia Lewis, and Sandra Blakeslee. Twenty five years ago, Judith Wallerstein began her landmark study of the effects of divorce on children. In this book, the authors track approximately 100 children through their parents divorce and through their own adulthood.