If you’re considering divorce, your kids’ needs will be one of your primary concerns. Many unhappy couples choose to stay together “for the sake of the kids”, but is that really the best way?
If you’re struggling with an unhappy marriage, you’ve probably wondered whether it’s more painful for your kids to live with unhappy parents, or divorced parents. So what is the best thing for your kids? Let’s unpack some of the issues surrounding unhappy relationships and their effects on children.
Children need a stable environment
More than anything, kids need a stable environment to grow up in. That means:
- A home free of constant fighting and negativity
- A secure, happy environment in which to grow
- Never being asked to pick sides or pass messages
- A place where they can relax and know they’re taken care of
If your relationship has gone south, it’s hard to provide the kind of stable environment your kids need to thrive. If you’re wondering whether to divorce or not, being able to, ask yourself which option will give your kids what they really need.
Negativity in the home has long term effects
A home filled with fighting and tense silences isn’t a nurturing environment for anyone, especially not kids or teens. Coming home to a tense atmosphere or witnessing constant fights will push your children’s stress levels up.
This increased stress will have a negative effect on their emotional wellbeing, and can also affect physical health, sleep quality, and ability to concentrate at school.
Seeing you fighting will give your kids a skewed idea of what’s acceptable in a relationship. This can affect their relationships when they grow up, and set them up for toxic and unhealthy partnerships.
When staying together is an option
Not all marriage problems have to end in divorce. In some cases, you and your partner can work through them and heal your marriage.
If you both really love each other and want your marriage to work out, you can do it. You might want to get some couples counseling to help you get back to a good place.
If you decide to stay together, you’ll need to both be committed not only to each other and your marriage, but to providing a positive environment for your kids. Be sure that this is something you both want – putting up a brave face won’t help your children in the long term.
When divorce is the best choice
If there isn’t a way to heal your marriage, divorce may be the only viable option. Your kids deserve to see both their parents happy and making the right choices for themselves – this models healthy behavior and boundary setting for the future.
The bottom line is this: Your kids need an environment free of fighting and underlying stress. Sometimes divorce is the only way to provide that. It’s a hard choice to make, but in the long run a loving committed one parent home is better than a toxic and stressful two parent home.
Divorce is a difficult transition for both of you and for your kids, but if there is no hope for your marriage, denial will only make things worse.
Keeping both parents in the picture
Divorce isn’t easy for kids, but you know what’s even harder? Having to choose sides between their parents.
If you get divorced, it’s important that you still work together as a team for the good of your kids. It’s not easy to do and takes commitment on both sides, but your children will benefit from having loving and steadfast input from both parents as you all make the transition.
Get together and discuss how to handle parent teacher meetings, holidays, discipline and visitation. Your kids need to see a united front from their parents. Above all, don’t complain about your ex to your children, and don’t ask them to take sides.
Either way support is a must
Whether you choose to divorce or try to heal your marriage, issues between you and your partner can quickly become stressful or frightening for your children. That’s why support is a must no matter which path you choose.
Make sure your kids know you are always there for them, and that they can talk to you about anything. Do everything you can to provide a safe environment where they can share their concerns with you and get the support they need.
You need support at this difficult time too – but not from your kids. They’re not your therapist or confidant. Build up a strong network of family or friends, or professionals, you can turn to for support. Take good care of yourself so you can show up fully for your children.
Marital problems are stressful for everyone involved. At the end of the day, the question of what is less painful for your children comes down to this: Choose the option that is most conducive to providing them a positive environment free from fights and toxicity.