The Children’s Perspective on Divorce

Divorce imposes heroic demands on the spouses going through it, but the parent who can see the world as his or her children, gains a very sobering insight into the trauma a divorce works in the lives of those who really have no say in the matter. This vantage point can be invaluable because it gives a parent some perspective on how the child is interpreting or absorbing the change.

Young children feel the changes that are going on around them in their world, and depending upon the age of a child, their world can be very small. They are aware of the changes that are taking place between their parents and how they react to each other. They also see how these changes are affecting the way they live. Later, when the parents separate, they are disturbed by not being able to be with both parents on a daily basis. They often are dissatisfied with shared custody or visitation schedules and are insecure in their environment.

The spectrum of children’s reactions to divorce is broad, as these recollections suggest:
"No one could make all of this go away."
A child who just wishes the sea of trouble around him would become still, may be at the edge of desperation.

"Why doesn’t my mommy want to be here with all of us?"
Even a child who knows Mommy loves him or her struggles with the hole created by her physical absence.

"I don’t understand why I go to my daddy’s on the weekends."
Visitation as an idea may be difficult to grasp and less enjoyable to experience.

"I can’t remember ever seeing my parents together."
A very young child of divorced parents may have no recollection of an intact family.

"I remember always feeling as though it was all my fault, and I would cry myself to sleep a lot."
A divorce tragedy happens when a child blames himself.

"I think they still hate each other."
When parents continue the battle, a child feels caught in a crossfire.

"My parents have always been fair with me. Even though they were divorced, they were both always there for me. I love them for that."
When parents make an effort, they can protect a child from divorce shrapnel.

"I have grown up to be a very secure person. Both of my parents have always been there for me, and they both make time to talk to me together if that is what I need."
Divorced spouses who remember they are still parents can be as effective as parents in intact marriages.


Children are honest about what they see and experience, and they are able to describe how they perceive what is going on around them. Initially, children do wish that their parents were still together, but as time goes by, they will accept the divorce.

Common Questions and Answers
Q. What is the worst thing a parent can do for a child in a divorce?

A. Possibly the worst experience a child can suffer in a divorce happens when warring parents fight about him or her in a drawn out custody battle. Not only will the parents come out of the experience with a lasting hatred of each other, they will also subject a child to a tug of war that can pull him or her to pieces, mentally and emotionally.

Q. What is the best thing a parent can do for a child in a divorce?

A. Walking the talk. A parent who is there when a child needs him -- who shows his love by loving -- does more for a child than one who tries to buy a child’s love with gifts or one who offsets guilt by letting the child run free.

Q. What must divorcing parents avoid?

A. Parents must not speak poorly of each other in the presence of their children. Children, particularly younger ones, may take this as a prompt to take sides. A child does not see his father or mother as husband or wife sees a spouse. A child sees a parent as an just that; one of a kind and not replaceable.



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