The pain of divorce never goes away for the children.
If you want to see some proof of why God says “I hate divorce” (Malachi 2:16), just look at a website called Postcards from Splitsville.
There you will find cards that children have created to express their thoughts and feelings about the divorce of their parents. The site’s creators wanted a forum where “children can share their divorce-related feelings anonymously and parents can get a new perspective on how this life-changing experience impacts their children’s lives.”
It’s very powerful, and very sad. Some of the words on the postcards are so profound that you almost find it hard to believe they come from children:
“It used to be a good thing that I look just like my mom. Not anymore. It just makes my dad sad.”
“No child should be called a traitor simply for loving the ‘other’ parent.”
“Who are you?
when your parents wish they never met?”
The messages at Postcards from Splitsville provide a brief glimpse at the tremendous pain felt by children when their world is broken—when the two people they love the most are unable to keep their vows of staying together “until death do us part.” Another glimpse can be found in a recent Newsweek cover story. One of the magazine’s reporters interviewed members of his high school class of 1982 to learn what impact their parents’ divorce has had on them through the years. The fascinating article, “The Divorce Generation Grows Up,” shows that the pain and impact of divorce never goes away, even as the children grow into adulthood.
In our parents’ generation, marriage was still the most powerful social force. In ours, it was divorce. My 44-year-old classmates and I have watched divorce morph from something shocking, even shameful, into a routine fact of American life.
But while it may be a common occurrence, divorce remains a profound experience for those who’ve lived through it. Researchers have churned out all sorts of depressing statistics about the impact of divorce. Each year, about 1 million children watch their parents split, triple the number in the ’50s. These children are twice as likely as their peers to get divorced themselves and more likely to have mental-health problems, studies show. While divorce rates have been dropping—off from their 1981 peak to just 3.6 per 1,000 people in 2006—marriage has also declined sharply, falling to 7.3 per 1,000 people in 2006 from 10.6 in 1970.
The writer tells about the classmate who “dealt with the instability at home by acting out”—smoking at age 9, having sex at age 13. “I think I had a problem because I didn’t have my dad around. So I was looking for love that wasn’t there.”
Another classmate recalls when his father’s second marriage ended. “I was a 15-year-old high-school freshman who was forced to become a crisis counselor, sitting in the front seat of his car for endless hours listening to him and trying to keep him from completely breaking down.”
Through the years, many of the classmates from divorced families had difficulties in their own relationships. “I loved being married, and it devastated me when it ended,” one says. The girl who acted out as a teenager got married at age 25, but the marriage lasted only four years. “I guess I just didn’t know what to do in a relationship,” she says.
I found it odd that, at end of the article, the writer concludes, “Despite the complications and the collateral damage, my friends from Grant High’s class of ’82 seem to agree that the divorces in their lives—both their parents’ and their own—were probably for the best.” That may be what those classmates are saying, but to me the lesson from their experiences was clear: Children are affected by divorce more than we want to admit.
That’s why the best gift you can give your children is to make your marriage work—to build your relationship according to God’s purposes, and to love each other for a lifetime in the strength of God’s power.
Copyright © 2008 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.