I often hear parents say their children are "resilient" when talking about the negative effects their divorce will have. I always find it interesting that these parents are giving their children more credit than they give themselves when it comes to dealing with stress. In most situations these are parents who have found themselves "unhappy" or "unfulfilled" in their marriage and are unable to deal with the stress of staying in the marriage.
They are in a marital situation they feel they can no longer endure BUT for some reason they are of the opinion that their children are more resilient than they are. That the trauma of a broken family will be less stressful for the children than them living in an unsatisfying marriage.
Definition of RESILIENT
: characterized or marked by resilience: as
a : capable of withstanding shock without permanent deformation or rupture
b : tending to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change
Think about it, do you think your children are anymore able to withstand the shock of divorce than you are the stress of an unhappy marriage? I'm not talking about an abusive, high conflict marriage. Most divorces are between parents who "have grown apart," or, "fallen out of love." In such a situation who is more likely to be able to make adjustments to unhappiness in life, you or your children?
According to Lisa Vratny-Smith, "Toddlers are able to recognize that their parent is no longer at home and will struggle to understand why. Developmentally, a toddler's focus is on what is occurring at the present moment, and the future is incomprehensible. Like infants, toddlers will react to the stress or tension the adults in the home are experiencing. They may exhibit decreased tolerance for frustration, increased aggression or temper tantrums. More frequent crying or pouting and changes in mood may also occur. In addition, toddlers may suck their thumbs more frequently, have nightmares and be more reluctant to separate from parents."
Parent's relationships have a HUGE influence over the emotional development of their children. As adults we have developed emotionally...most of us anyway. We've gone through all the stages that children go through developmentally which makes us more resilient when it comes to handling adversity.
Some adults going through or thinking about divorce make the mistake of projecting their ability to deal with stress onto their children. I find this puzzling because these same parents are finding it hard to live inside an unhappy marriage. This tells me that such projection is a refusal to see the situation from their child's perspective.
Sure, there are situations where children are better off when parents divorce. Children should never be exposed to high conflict marriages. If there is domestic abuse or behaviors destructive to your child's well-being you owe it to your child to change the situation.
If, however you are in a low-conflict marriage think about the impact to your children before you, "Ditch your spouse and eat, pray, love your way to the next one" as Beverly Willett so eloquently put it.