For my last post, I’d like to talk about why I chose to blog about this topic in particular. I know that this can be really hard to understand for some people, especially for those who haven’t ever been through a situation where their parents are divorced and might never – in their young life at least. The people who’s parents divorced with little fan fair, conflict, violence or involvement of their kids might not know what I’m talking about.
This is the problem.
This is what I’m trying to solve. I want you to know what I’m talking about – why this is important and why we need to talk about it. I’ll tell you now.
I’m sitting in my room. I can hear their screams through the door, they’re impossible to drown out. I’d have to deafen myself with my music and I almost do. But I can still hear the screaming. Two languages fly between them – swearing, screaming, neither giving ground, both getting angrier and angrier. As they get angry, they get cruel, one more than the other.
They promise the other that they’ll never get this, never get that. They say horrible things to each other. I can’t repeat them.
Then you go outside and one them is crying. You want to hug them, but upon seeing this the other starts being nasty me. I don’t know why. I didn’t do anything wrong. No-one else is home.
One of them leaves, but the other is still angry. At anyone and anything.
There are people in this world who experience the lasting effects of bad divorces – intimacy issues, toxic relationships, anxiety, depression. Real mental issues they can’t help and which they probably didn’t deserve. I’m not saying that this story is everyone’s story. One US study says that serious social, emotional and psychological problems are more than double in children who have been through divorce than those in intact families. Another records a smaller number.
It really depends on an individual’s situation. Their age, character, relationship with parents before or after divorce and the family environment.
All I ask is for parents to make divorce as easy as possible on their children.
Every now and then, a child or teenager will need someone to talk to. Sometimes, and especially during divorce, this person is not one of their parents or siblings or other family members who have their own opinions on the subject and who they may not be that close to. Sometimes it’s not their friends because they’re afraid of judgement or they’re just not that close. Sometimes, it’s just the stigma.
Whichever it may be talking about things and sharing ideas are the way many people sort their feelings and ideas out. Recently, Dr Brian Graetz, General Manager Research, and Child, Youth & Families told me that young people prefer anonymous forms of communication, rather than direct physical counselling. There is less pressure on the phone or online. So here are some places you/your children could contact.
The great thing about the Kids Help Line is that they are targeted at empathising with parents and children – that is what they’re best at. It’s a free service and they can do counselling over the phone, email and over the internet. They’re very flexible. If you can’t get in touch with them (which doesn’t happen often) or your particular issue doesn’t need it, they have support on their website.
Not specifically for kids or parents, but about general social, lifestyle and mental health issues. They don’t have to be serious – they can be as improving your everyday life and wellbeing. There is no payment and it’s online. Their advice is quick and easy. They even tell you how many other people are online – a subtle reminder that you are not alone.
A service mostly for depression and anxiety, however they offer advice on a range of other issues. They make it clear they are available to talk over the phone 24 hours a day. The organisation actively participates in studies and are always updating their services according to those studies. They are one of the most up-to-date services around. Their number is 1300 224 636.
We know these organisations are there, but they sometimes seem so far away, something is holding us back. But being told about them with recommendations sometimes gives people the push they need. I hope this gave you a little push.
If you’re Australian or Italian – or maybe if you’re neither, I’m not really sure how this was reported in international media – you may remember a particular incident where an Australian woman who had lived in Italy with her Italian husband, had four children (all girls) who she eventually brought to Australia to live.
Naturally, as with many personal domestic squabbles, we don’t know all the details. We don’t know what really happened. A lot of the details could be hearsay or planted by various parties in the conflict.
If you don’t know, a quick and uncomplicated run-down is basically, Australian woman gets married in Italy, has four children, all born and raised in Italy. She brings them to Australia for a holiday in 2010, then doesn’t go back to Italy. By this time the eldest girl is in her teens. Father naturally gets quite angry and in an unusual move invokes the Hague Convention. The girls are forcibly sent back to Italy – they fought the whole way. Their father expresses joy at having them back. Before she left, the father and mother of the girls shared custody of them.
There is very little evidence in the media of there having been a problem with this arrangement and yet she left, violating a custody agreement.
Australians have generally supported the mother; the father, when he came to Australia, was frustrated with the priority our legal system gives to mothers in custody battles. He asked Australians to calm down.
Personally, I don’t agree. Think about it for a second. You have children and one day your ex-partner or other half decides to take them halfway across the world and not come back. He/she breaks the custody agreement and you can no longer see your daughters. In what world is this fair?
We have to ask, why does this mother warrant sympathy?
The girls certainly do – they went through a difficult and stressful experience which was not needed.
The girls were returned to Italy because their father called on the Hague Convention. It covers international parental child abduction. Basically, if a child is taken to anther country by one parent, the other has the option to request that they be returned to their origin or request that they be allowed access to them (via telephone, the internet, international trips, Skype).
In this example, why does it seem right to keep the girls here? We are worried about the mother, but seem to forget that the girls have been living apart from their father for two years. Why don’t we sympathise with their father? He has as much right to live near his children as their mother does.
One of the biggest issues of custody law in Australia is that it favours mothers, as one blogger pointed out.
What I’m really concerned about is that the girls have suffered through the actions of their parents. They could have avoided a lot of stress and emotional trauma on the girls through their own actions. They should have.
*The girls/their supporters began a Facebook page called Kids Without Voices.
A couple of days ago I found this post by a friend of mine, which is about custody and who gets it after separation. Her whole point was that in the Australian legal system, the mother is advantaged.
That’s not to say it’s the same all over the world. Countries have various legal systems all over the world according to their societies, beliefs and cultures. Today, I’m only going through the Australian system.
Custody disputes and their outcomes can put children through a lot of stress. What parents nis eeed to remember is that the custody agreement is in the best interests of their children.
It has nothing to do with the parents or how much they want control of their children or satisfaction.
When any factors past the best interests of the children come into play, the waters become muddy and it becomes hard to know what to do.
Unless one parent is very violent or unstable, it is generally not a good idea to keep children away from that parent. This could have long-term psychological effects and affect their view on relationships and trust for the rest of their life. Losing anyone, let alone a parent who has protected them and loved them, so suddenly is difficult for them. They aren’t ready for it and don’t know how to deal with it emotionally.
A stable environment is essential for them. This means regularity, no arguing or conflict.
Shared custody is often preferred, so the child doesn’t miss out on having one parent or the other and gets the best of both worlds. But not if there are still problems. The Kids Help Line recommends that if a peaceful environment isn’t possible, it’s usually better for children to stay with one parent, but not lose contact with the other.
Each child is different – the choice should depend on their age, where they’ve grown up, the relationship between their parents and between the child and each parent, as well as other factors.
But the bottom line is always the health and wellbeing of the children.
So, we’ve established that there are short-term effects of conflict-filled divorce are bad for children. We haven’t looked at the long-term effects yet, and to be honest, not many researchers had until recently.
Well, they started, and here’s what I found. The results differ depending on the way the research is conducted, but basically, there is some detrimental effects on children who have been through messy divorces.
The problem with this is that it is such an inexact science – children react differently. Most researchers agree that it is hard to predict what the effect will be on children and it can be completely different to the short-term effects. They also agree that it depends on the situation of the child:
- relationship with both parents
- prevalence of conflict in the marriage and divorce
- how much they were drawn into this conflict
- socio-economic status
Due to these factors and taking the child’s character into account, anything can happen. This post will go through some of the most prevalent problems.
Emotional issues can be a big problem – anxiety from memories of their parents’ divorce, vulnerability and fear of loss and betrayal, anger and resentment, depression and a general reduction in psychological wellbeing.
Socially these children find it hard to form relationships later in life due to fear of intimacy, less trust in their spouse and are more likely to divorce and have sex earlier.
Their relationships with their parents are often damaged – many see their parents less often and are not as close to them.
One study shows that 25% of children of divorce have serious emotional, psychological and social issues, while the majority have very few serious effects. This is opposed to !0% of children with these problems in intact families. Another says that a minority experience serious long -term effects. But that’s still a lot of children. Twenty-five percent is no small thing – that’s one in four children.
But if we took action to prevent this, we could prevent issues and pain these children don’t have to go through when they’re young or later in life.
For a bit more info
You probably know that Miranda Kerr and Orlando Bloom split. If you don’t, Miranda is an Australian supermodel and businesswoman and Orlando is a successful English actor, known for a few big hollywood blockbusters including Pirates of the Caribbean and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Now, when they got married, there was a bit of fan fair with generally good sentiment. See here.
Two-years later they have a son, named Flynn. Their divorce was announced just a few days ago. When asked why, Orlando told the media that some things just don’t work out the way you want them to. No crying, hysterics, drama, accusations or even any personal revelations about himself or Miranda. It just didn’t work out – and it seems like they both agree.
This is the kind of divorce that seems peaceful and fairly easy (as divorces can be). Statements released by their representatives tell that they “love, support and respect each other as both parents of their son and as family.” They still think of each other as family. This may not seem significant – you might say, the child will be happy either way, right? Well, no. Not necessarily.
The attitude of the parents often rubs off onto the child, especially at an early or particularly vulnerable age. If one parent is against the other, or they fight, it could potentially change a child’s attitude to family.
Why would we want to bring up children in an environment saturated with negative energy? What attitudes of anger and resentment can do to a child’s sense of normalcy and psyche can become issues later in life. Studies such as the one described in this Huffington Post article are instrumental in our understanding of how bad divorces affect children and how much better it is for children/adolescents who don’t have to go through their parents’ crappy divorce.
Thankfully, Miranda and Orlando look like a couple who can see this and will do all they can to keep love and family in their son’s life, especially at such a tender age. This is a celebrity we should all think about and maybe follow.
*photo courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald
When there is conflict in a household, it affects everyone. The negative energy and vibes spread from one person to another, whether they’re involved or not. Sitting in a room crying because they’re parents are fighting or being depressed because they’re family is in discord isn’t something anyone should be exposed to.
This one is for the parents and children out there. When the fighting or violence starts (and it does in messy divorces), the children, whether teenagers or under tens shouldn’t have to be exposed.
So, try to get them to relax by getting them away from there. Somewhere they can relax and get all the negative energy out of their system. Get a relative or a friend – someone they trust to pick them up and take them somewhere to talk or do something else that just makes them relax.
Take them to the beach, listen to the waves and walk along the sand – but talk, keep them occupied.
Go out and do something – rock climbing, go karting, dancing – anything that requires both physical and mental concentration.
Make sure they spend time with friends – close friends who they can relax and be comfortable.
In any case, find something they can do which takes their mind off the conflict at home. It’s not fair for them to experience something which they didn’t cause and which could have such profound effects on their psyche and experience of their world.
Physically separating someone from an issue often helps them forget it and if they can forget it, just for a while, it could make a difference to a person’s emotional state. It’s really beneficial.
What helps you or your kids relax? Do you find implementing this helps?
Remember, think of the children.