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What does divorce really do to children?

Love is in the air as Valentine’s Day fast approaches, but what happens when we don’t get our happily ever after? Divorce rate is at its lowest since 1975, with a level of 9.8 per 1000 married men or women. Is a low divorce rate the saviour to the problem of separation though? A recent poll showed that 82% of 14-22year olds who had experienced parental divorces, would prefer the separation if they were unhappy as opposed to forcing themselves to stay together. In one of my recent articles, I uncovered just how much of a toll breakups can have on all of us. What happens when you have to suppress the separation rituals; the Ben and Jerry’s scoffing, Bridget Jones’ crying, Kelly Clarkson screaming tribulations of a breakup – to protect the children who are unwillingly involved. We asked 5, now adults, about the impact that their parent’s divorce had upon them, both then and now, and the answers proved to be really shocking.

How old were you when your parents separated?

“I was 19 when my parents got divorced”
Katie, 21

“I was about 8 or 9 when they separated”
James, 25

“I was 4. I don’t remember much.”
Chelsea, 20

“I was 3.”
Lauren, 23

“I was 12 when my mother separated from my step-father”.
Jane, 40

 

 

Were you told the reason for the split?

“It wasn’t a mutual decision. It was my Dads’”
Katie, 21

“The divorce was mutual as far as I know. We were just told that they didn’t love each other anymore, which was quite clear from the amount they argued”
James, 25

“I was never lied to about the split, but my parents (mostly my mum) did flower the truth so that I understood. My brother filled in the gaps when I was a few years older, until more recently when my mum randomly disclosed snippets. My dad doesn’t talk about it.”
Chelsea, 20

“I have been told that they got married too young and that’s it. It has never been elaborated on and gets shut down quite quickly. Although I have only really asked my mum and it gets awkward – so we change the conversation.”
Lauren, 23

“It was a decision based on my Mother’s yearning to be free of a man who bullied her and her daughter (Me). He was enormously controlling and the dictionary definition of a narcissist.”
Jane, 40

 

How were you told?

“I was living in abroad and went to University in the UK. I wasn’t told about the divorce (well it was a separation at first) until I went home for Christmas break from Uni. They had split in September of my first year right after I had left.”
Katie, 21

“I was told when we were having a family meal. I remember my parents brought out a brand new chocolate fondue set for dessert and told us then.”
James, 25

“At 4, I was told my dad hadn’t come home for his tea.”
Chelsea, 20

“I don’t remember being told, I was so young.”
Lauren, 23

“We were not told the truth but I knew the basic reasons why they were splitting because I used to hear them arguing.  I was part of that reason as he was not able to accept me as his own and he was never able to warm to me.”
Jane, 40

 

How did you feel at the time?

“At the time I was extremely confused because my parents had never fought or ever given the slightest hint that they would ever get divorced. All of my friends came over to my house because they loved my parents and treated them like their own.”
Katie, 21

“At the time I was absolutely gutted, I did not see it coming even though all the signs were there. One of my main worries was that I wouldn’t be able to see both of my parents when I wanted to”
James, 25

“At the time, I just remember being a bit confused as to why my Dad was living with my Uncle.. and then his friend. My Mum often tells me people thought I was a “little madam” but she got annoyed at people for it, as she put it down to the divorce.”
Chelsea, 20

“I was too young to understand anything at the time, it’s only as I’ve gotten older that I’ve begun to put the pieces together.”
Lauren, 23

“I was pleased that they were divorcing because it meant I no longer had to be civil to a man who clearly hated me.”
Jane, 40

 

How do you feel about the impact it’s had upon you now?

“It has affected me a lot in the long run. I have really bad trust issues and don’t really ever feel like I will get married. I have a strained relationship with my Dad now and we do not talk as much as we used to, as he’s since moved away.”
Katie, 21

 

“Looking back now, it was probably one of the better things that has happened to me. It brought me out of my shell a lot more and helped me develop in so many ways. Life was so much happier and easier after it had all blown over and it actually made me a lot closer to both of my parents. The only lasting effect it had is that I now associate chocolate fondue with bad news”
James, 25

“I can’t really say whether I would be any different if my parents had stayed together.  My mum would probably have more money and be less stressed.  I’ve no idea if my dad would be any different. I’d like to think it hasn’t affected my relationship with either, but I’m probably not as close to my dad as I would be if I had lived with him. In some ways, I think it’s given me a broader view of life, for example I’ve seen my mum struggle with money, and my dad enjoy his expensive taste.”
Chelsea, 20

“I have only ever known a divorced childhood so I guess in some respects it’s better than experiencing it at an older age. My dad had been in the army for 25 years and when I was about 13, he left. He made a decision to move 2 hours away. This is something I will never forgive him for. Although to some it might seem small, for me it was him cutting me out and starting again without me.  For 21 years, I believed my dad didn’t love me as I was the burden from the past. It wasn’t the fact that my parents divorced that angered me, it was more how my Dad handled the aftermath. I only have one photo of me and my parents together. That is something I am jealous about. My parents are never in a photo together. I’m not messed up from their divorce and I am glad they did separate rather than stay together for the sake of me having a ‘family photo’.”
Lauren, 23

I have seen him on a handful of occasions for functions but have not spoken to him for about 20yrs. My Mother relished the thought  of being free from his clutches and for 5 or 6 years after she was almost out of control with her new found freedom.  Her behaviour has had a profound effect on our relationship and we have actually drifted apart over the years.”
Jane, 40

 

From helping a child come out of his shell and build his confidence to shattering trust levels – divorce can quite evidently have a largely substantial effect on the children involved and we just want to give out a big bundle of cuddles right now.

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