In this instalment of Stowe guests, we are joined by Anna Sinski, a BACP-accredited integrative psychotherapist and counsellor working with clients in central London and online.
Anna helps individuals going through difficult life changes, including divorce and she joins us today to discuss how a divorce may actually benefit your children.
Chances are, you’ve heard loads of people say, “We should stay together for the kids.” Maybe you’ve even said it yourself. But despite the media and society demonizing the impact of divorce on kids, staying together often has far worse outcomes. In fact, separating may benefit your children. It all comes down to how you deal with it during and after the actual divorce.
First of all, I think it’s useful to explore the fact that we are (whether we realise it or not) role models for our children. They learn to imitate our behaviour and language from the youngest years and it doesn’t stop there. We are essentially their first relationship models too. It is from their parents that kids learn what relationships look like and what they should expect from their future partners. This is where they learn how relationships work, the female and male role, as well as acceptable boundaries and behaviours of both sides.
That being said, you might imagine that divorce depicts a relationship model of bitterness or a broken family. However, the truth is that it really depends on how you handle it in front of your children. Essentially, divorce highlights a relationship model where you have the option to leave if you’re unhappy. A relationship model where you deserve to be fulfilled and search for happiness, as well as one where you are allowed to change your mind.
Now imagine a reality where the child watches the parents argue and live bitter, unhappy lives for years. The relationship model they will get from that can be one where the child comes to believe that no matter what happens and no matter the unhappiness, they must endure any relationship. While in some cultures this form of sacrifice might be desirable, is that really the key to a fulfilled life?
You also have no way of knowing how years of an unhappy marriage will make you appear as a parent overall. To a large extent, the quality of our relationships defines the quality of our lives. The less happy we are in our relationships, the more likely it is that our overall happiness in other areas of life will go down. When you suffer, your child might suffer that emotional burden as well, especially because children are excellent at picking up on any tension in the air. All in all, this can be more stressful for the child in the long term. It is usually better for the child to have two happy homes than a single miserable one.
There is also a lot that kids can learn from divorce in terms of conflict resolution. Seeing two parents work through their differences while maintaining appropriate boundaries and remaining respectful is a great lesson. Using the “conflict” between you as parents as a model can teach your children how to deal with many potential disputes and difficulties throughout their lives. Moreover, it shows the kids that conflict in itself is not the end of the world and that it can be resolved peacefully.
More focused time
After the divorce (or during separation) your childcare arrangements are likely to become more structured. For one, this means that your child gets to know you more as an individual. But more importantly, this usually means they actually get more quality time with you. We’re all busy with various responsibilities, but the reality is that shared child care forces you to plan the time you are going to spend with your son or daughter. This, in turn, makes it much easier to set this time aside fully for their benefit and plan your other responsibilities for some other time or day. Thanks to this necessary planning, your children are more likely to get your undivided attention, which will make them feel more “seen”.
They learn to be more empathetic
Many marriages end in divorce and your child most likely has (or will have) some friends going through this experience. Having gone through it themselves, they will be more empathetic towards other children. This kind of experience can generally positively influence a child’s empathy towards others going through all sorts of life situations. Similarly, sharing an experience such as a divorce of the parents can make siblings more empathetic towards one another.
The impact that your divorce will have on your kids is ultimately up to you – the parents. It doesn’t have to be a traumatizing event in any way and it might not leave any negative consequences on your children. By making sure your kids are not forced to “choose” or stand in the middle of your fights, you can both end up being positive role models for them in many different ways.
Get in touch
If you would like to book a session with Anna, please call or text to 07376 041102 or send an e-mail to: [email protected]