Is it better for the kids if unhappy parents’ divorce or should they stay together for the sake of the kids?

We can’t answer the question when asked that way.  There is no general answer.  There are answers only for each specific family, “How bad is it, for the parents and for the kids?”

And, in the present moment, we can never be sure of the final results because the effects will be in the unknown future.

How bad is it?
Jenna’s husband could be charming when he wanted to but when he didn’t have complete obedience or absolute control he’d become negative, critical and mean.  She thought she could put up with it but when he tormented, bullied and abused the kids, she couldn’t stand it.

He’d never admit he ever did anything wrong or nasty.  His punishment was always their fault.  They deserved whatever he did to them, whether he was “merely” continuously yelling or slapping them until they cried or giving them a very loud and long silent treatment.  He taught them to vie for his affection and to be mean and nasty to each other.  He told them he loved them, and they’d better love him and show it by doing what he wanted.

When she saw the kids cower and try to please him, when she saw them scared and feeling guilty she thought they were suffering too much.  

Do kids need a father?
Jenna hesitated because she’d been raised to think that kids should honor their parents.  What put her over the edge was when he started talking pornography to the older boy.  Her husband was addicted to pornography and always defended it as “harmless.”  Jenna couldn’t stand to see her son corrupted.

She decided that the real question was, “Do the kids need that particular father as a role model?
That question focused her.  She became clear.  That father was a corrupting and poisoning influence.  He was narcissistic and would try to beat or manipulate her children into submission.

Which competing value should Jenna choose?
Jenna decided that her children’s futures were her most important value.  And her most important task was to protect them against harm.  They needed to see their mother stand up against bullying and abuse.  They needed to see their mother protect them.  So she filed for divorce and sole custody.

What should she tell the kids?
One of her values was never to say anything bad about the children’s father.  But if she lied, they wouldn’t be protected.

Jenna decided the most important value was to label the truth so her children could mentally and emotionally defend themselves against a scary and corrupting influence.  In an age-appropriate way, she wouldn’t pretend their father was nice, kind and loving to them.  Their father was not nice; the 20% nice he did was balanced by the 80% manipulation, bullying and abuse.  He was a wolf underneath the sheep’s clothing of the word, “father.”

Her speaking the truth freed the kids to make up their own minds.
The kids knew how they felt with their father and how they felt with her.  They knew where pain and fear lay, and where they were safe.  She finally talked about their father’s narcissism and brutality openly, instead of minimizing or pretending that nothing was wrong.  Their own experience helped them start trusting their own judgment of how much he’d hurt them.  His behavior was not love the way they wanted to feel it or express it.

Maybe, a better question for all of us is, “Which path do we want to go down, knowing we don’t know the future?”

Of course, there are many complications depending on your situation.  The best way to learn how to take power in your life and to be the person you want to be is to hire Dr. Ben for personalized coaching and counseling so you can:

  1. Develop the strength, courage, will and determination to be and to act your best resolutely, diligently and effectively.
  2. Develop a plan and master the skills necessary to create the life your spirit has always hungered for.

Since all tactics depend on the situation, call me at 1-877-8Bullies for expert counseling and coaching by phone or Skype.

AuthorBen Leichtling