What happens to the children during divorce?
“I think the most important thing for couples to realise is that the impact that they are going to have on their children during divorce is enormous.”
“All the research now shows that children survive divorce and adjust well if the parents act civilly and behave as friends. So the biggest mistake a lot of parents make, is that they get angry, rush off to the lawyers, rush off to court, and start a war.
I’ve had children come into my office and draw me their parents with guns shooting each other in the art therapy sessions I run with them. That is how the children represent how angry their parents are with each other. So I think it’s quite important for parents to realise that if they create a war-like situation, then the children are going to become victims of that war.
The children love both parents and don’t want to have to choose between them. So parental conflict creates quite an unstable environment for the children, and if only the parents actually realised that creating a harmony of separation, they could then show the children that if relationships don’t work out you can move into two separate happy environments. Where the children can see a happy mummy and a happy daddy, and create a situation where the family can work together in harmony rather than in an angry and even violent way – which then effects the children at school, it effects their friendships, and the parents work-life as well.
For example, I had a wife who told her husband she was getting divorce from, that he could only see the children between 5-7pm in the afternoon. But he worked in the City, and so couldn’t get home before 9pm. So he then had to ask for an early half day every Wednesday to leave the office by 3.30pm, to get to the kids by 5pm, so he could see his children during the week.
So he became resentful, as it had an impact on his job, she didn’t care as she was angry that he wanted a divorce, and it got to the point where one of the children actually came into my office and said: “I don’t want to live with either one of them, I want to go to boarding school.”
This little boy was only 9 years old. He literally put his hands over his ears and said: “I can’t take this anymore. All they do is fight, and yell at each other, and daddy is always angry he has to leave work early, and mummy’s always angry that daddy left” – and it became a very uncomfortable situation for everybody.
The children are unhappy, the parents are unhappy, the employers are unhappy, it starts effecting output, income, promotion, bonuses – the whole life of the family is then stuck in a trauma, rather than moving towards healing – because the parents are at war.”