It used to be that we thought “divorce” itself was responsible for the negative psychological effects on children. Spouses stayed together “for the sake of the children”. Now we know differently. After years of studying the impact of divorce on children, we have discovered that it is the CONFLICT between the parents, not the divorce per se, that is so emotionally traumatic for children.
So, it is not better to “stay together for the sake of the children” if there is conflict between you and your spouse. When Mom and Dad are in conflict, children are confused about whether they can love both Mom and Dad. In their minds, if Mom doesn’t like Dad, then the child doesn’t think it is okay to love both Mom and Dad.
The child, therefore, feels the need to pick the “good guy” in the divorce, which leaves the other parent as the “bad guy”. The long-term effects of a child choosing one parent as the “bad guy” is that the child begins a life-long distrust of that sex. So, if they pick Mom as the “bad guy”, they don’t trust women. This distrust of one sex lasts long into the child’s adulthood and interferes with their ability to form trusting, long lasting relationships in the future. It can even doom them from having a successful marriage when they grow up.
I am sure this is not the legacy my clients want to leave for their children. They just don’t know that their conflict with their spouse has such a devastating impact on their children. Once they know how harmful conflict is to their children’s development, they can choose to love their children more than they hate their spouse.