Co-Parenting Can Be Difficult

No amount of legal reform can dictate the reactions of children when the family unit is fractured; splintered into two worlds with each parent a ruler with his/her own rules. Often children of divorced parents will escape into a third world of their own design, where they are their own ruler.

Photo by / Carl Jorgensen

In co-parenting, divorced parents agree that each will give 50% of their time to their children. Very rarely do the parents consider the fairness of this arrangement from the perspective of the children. Within this new framework, the children must now manage two bedrooms, two collections of possessions, two schedules, two routines, two sets of house rules and parent preferences, plus the possibility of two new adults (the new mates) and their input into the immediate family structure. The pressure that these children are now forced to live with day after day can/does become dangerously difficult for them emotionally, mentally and physically.

Think about it for a few minutes. Can you or I, perform well in a disorganized and confused environment? How long before we develop anxiety and depression? Unfortunately, that is what a high percentage of children must deal with when trying to live with their divorced parents. So overwhelming is their situation that it is not uncommon for the children, regardless of age, to lose all self esteem and possibility of academic achievement. Often they feel more like guests and soon become strangers. In a way, they are homeless.

Photo by / Japheth Mast

It is not unusual for children of divorce to reject all adult authority; parents, teachers, secular authorities such as police officers and religious leaders. They become delinquents. As they grow to adulthood, always having their feelings and expressions deconstructed and restated to fit the ‘narrative’ given them by their parents, their lives for decades result in a series of rehearsed and repeated patterns of ‘people pleasing’. For many, it takes years of therapy before making sense of why their parents divorced. Even children, raised by moms and dads that succeeded in co-parenting are not immune to feelings of guilt and negative self-image. They will admit there was little empathy shown them, albeit they heard the word ‘love’ many times. The authors of the book The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce wrote “One message is clear: the children do not say they are happier. Rather, they say flatly, ‘The day my parents divorced is the day my childhood ended”. The book added that children see the world as “a far less reliable, more dangerous place because the closest relationships in their lives can no longer be expected to hold firm.”

An accepted belief amongst research scientists, family therapists and child psychologists, seems to be little known by many of the general public. That belief has to do with the unspoken pain and suffering within the survivors’ of divorce, which is still an unfinished story. They are an invisible part of the walking wounded; they are the friends, the employers and employees, the professionals and famous, the next door neighbors, the babysitters, the politicians, the grocer, the bag boy, the derelict on the corner, and many many others who wear a smile and answer all is okay while crying unseen tears.

Hopefully, I shall do a follow up article, in which, after some further research, I am able to find something positive and encouraging about this topic. My efforts to do so went unrewarded this time. I could find nothing beyond examples and studies of couples that chose not to get divorced.


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