A United Kingdom survey suggests that the children of divorced parents deal with the same difficult emotions that trouble their parents – betrayal, anger, jealousy and sadness. Parents think that they understand how children are coping, but many do not, the survey suggests.
This study highlights a serious disconnect between parents, who think they are shielding children from an unpleasant situation, and children, who feel neglected.
The U.K. parenting website Netmums.com surveyed 1,000 parents and 100 children separately about divorce. The survey suggests that children struggle with a divorce much more than their parents may realize. Many of the kids also reported a lack of communication and dangerous coping behaviors.
Poor communication troubled many children of divorce, and they struggle with complex emotions because they do not feel comfortable talking with their parents. Nearly three-quarters of the kids “feel the need to hide, ignore or mask their negative feelings about a divorce from their parents.” In dealing with these negative feelings, about 22 percent of the children have turned to dangerous behaviors such as drinking and purposely hurting themselves.
Despite this, 77 percent of parents responded that their children were coping well with the divorce, and 99 percent of the parents did not know that the children engaged in such destructive behaviors.
The key points of the survey include:
- Only 14 percent of children could tell their parents how upset they felt.
- 39 percent “hide their feelings from their parents as they don’t want to upset them.”
- One in five kept still because “there was no point in telling my parents how I feel as they are too wrapped up in themselves.”
- One in 12 felt cared for by a parent when the marriage faltered.
- Thirty-five percent claimed one of their warring parents tried to enlist him or her against the other.
- Almost a third of the children under 18 described themselves as “devastated” by their parents breakup.
- One in 12 thought the divorce meant their parents “didn’t love them” and had “let them down.”
- One in eight blamed themselves for the split.
- The trauma of the spilt was so bad for some youngsters that 31 percent witnessed their parents fighting.
- One in 20 took to drink, and three percent took drugs to cope.
- One in nine self-harmed.
- A further six percent considered suicide and one in 50 tried it but was prevented in time.
Ending a marriage is difficult, but children need support, open communication and love then more than ever.