Have you encountered kids who actually wanted their parents to get a divorce?



Recently I posted an article about how blunt kids can be when talking about their parent’s divorce. After that post was published I had someone ask me if I had encountered kids who actually wanted their parents to get a divorce.

This person asked if it was possible for little children to truly understood what divorce meant. Do they really want their parents to split?

On one of the Facebook pages where the article was posted there were some comments from parents about how their kids were okay with the divorce. Someone responded privately stating, “It seems that maybe these parents are saying that they wanted a divorce to deal with some of their own guilt. I can’t imagine many kids actually wanting their parents to separate, even in a tough situation, but I could be wrong.”

These are tough questions. I don’t know of any research study that has set out to prove that young children actually want their parents to divorce. Here is what I do know from my own observations. Keep in mind these are strictly my observations.

Sometimes where there is yelling, screaming, cursing and things are being thrown, children want a release from this situation. That doesn’t mean they want their parents to divorce.

  • It means they want the screaming to stop.
  • It means they want the stress to lessen.
  • It means they want the fighting to stop.
  • It means when they have to be messengers in the family home, “Tell your mother to pay this bill.” Or “Tell your dad he needs to come home early tonight so he can help you with your homework.” That they want out of that messenger role. It puts the child in the middle between two of their most treasured people in the entire world – their mama and daddy.

What kids have shared with me

Kids and teens have shared with me that they don’t like being stuck in the middle between two parents who are war with each other all the time. Many are afraid they are going to get caught in the crossfires and even worse hurt when the warring parents begin to lob not only accusations but also things at each other.

Other older kids and teens have told me they wish their parents would stop pretending to love each other. I’ve even heard them say they wonder if they will ever truly know what love looks like themselves. Will they be doomed to repeat the mistakes of their parents?

A lot of children just want a normal life even though they may not know what “normal” looks like. They think their friends have a normal life. They see what they think a normal life looks like on TV, movies, etc.

When parents divorce it does relieve a lot of the immediate stress in the home. Things calm down and life seems calm for the moment. If there was domestic violence then yes, things are calmer.

If children were hurt in physical abuse many times they will also be relieved that now they are safe in the home.

False positives

  • Many times when one parent moves out of the home the children’s grades might improve.
  • The child’s behavior appears to calm down. There aren’t as many calls from the teachers at school complaining about the child’s rowdiness or lack of finishing their homework.
  • A child becomes more productive at home doing chores and helping out around the house.
  • Children might seem nicer to their siblings with less fighting and arguing.

Reality of the situation

Many children are actually relieved when told the parents are divorcing and one parent is leaving the home. The false positives listed above might only be temporary. Because the kids are grateful they no longer live in a war zone their behavior changes for a while.

As reality sets in and there is less money, there is only one very tired parent in the home and or the other parent is still taunting the parent in the home, what has been normal behavior for the child returns. Quickly, children realize their lives have been changed forever.

If the child was being hit or abused in some way then of course the safer environment means less outrageous behavior. Most of the time when kids are acting out, their behavior becomes their voice crying for help. Something is wrong in their life.

After things calm down a few children as they age will become abusers themselves. Not all kids but some will imitate the behavior that was doled out to them. That’s why it’s important to get help for these children early on.

As the parents heal

If each parent takes time to heal and improve their lifestyle then children can survive. Mom and or dad can get counseling to learn how to change their behaviors. Programs like DivorceCare and Single & Parenting can help each parent become a better person and parent.

When the parent in the home takes more time to actually sit down and help with the homework the grades can get better at school. Or maybe they don’t have time to sit down and help but they are remembering to check and make sure the child is doing their homework. Because the stress level at home is less and the parent they live with is concerned about their schoolwork the child’s grades improve.

As a parent becomes healthy emotionally, physically and spiritually they are better able to help the children learn to contribute to the home. Some children are so grateful for a calm environment that they will want to help with domestic chores and responsibilities.

As the single parent finds a supportive church family, the children can begin to be exposed to healthy normal family life, maybe for the first time in their short lives.

Very few children actually want a divorce to happen. As they become adults and they understand the problematic marriage of their parents a small minority of  kids say they are relieved they were able to grow up in a home where bickering, fights and or domestic violence ceased. However, if the truth be told most of these adult kids, even the ones that lived in very stressful environments, wish their parents or parent could have gotten help and the marriage could have been saved.


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