What did I do wrong? What will people think? Will I ever remarry? All these questions went through my head when I went through my divorce. But the one thought that cut the deepest was, “How will my kids handle this?” There are plenty of scary statistics on kids of divorced parents that can keep us up at night. I’m fairly certain I read one that said they are 72.3 percent more likely to grow a third ear.
One area I worry about is how my sons will act in future relationships. No two kids, parents, or divorces are the same, but here are 5 ways kids of divorced parents might approach relationships differently.
Mom, some of these will be tough to read. They were hard for me to research and write. But knowing what struggles our kids might face in the future will help us have more healing and productive conversations with them now. Know that in addition to these 5 things, kids of divorced parents also love intensely and take communication seriously, and your influence on that is huge.
Knowing what struggles our kids might face in the future will help us have more healing and productive conversations with them now.
Kids of divorced parents might be less likely to get married.
It’s a very real possibility that the pain from your divorce has soured your child to the idea of marriage. I’ve heard plenty of people ask why they would want to put a kid through what they went through.
What to do now: Look for opportunities to show your child examples of healthy couples and talk through what makes a relationship strong. My sons get to spend a lot of time with my parents, who have been married for 46 years. I love that they get to see what growing old together looks like.
They might have one foot out the door.
Watching your parents split up can make a kid doubt anything lasts forever. While they want a relationship to work, they will mentally be prepared for it to end, which could prevent them from fully investing.
What to do now: When your child is old enough, don’t be afraid to talk about what you think went wrong in your marriage (within reason). I would tell my sons I was afraid of conflict and encourage them to think of conflict as a healthy part of a relationship.
They might have high expectations.
Growing up, my parents fought in front of me and allowed me to see their flaws. I wasn’t afraid to marry someone with flaws because I knew flaws didn’t necessarily mean divorce. But kids of divorced parents might have high expectations of relationships because they are afraid of wasting their time.
What to do now: Model forgiveness to your children so they know that even if they make mistakes, they are still loved and worth being in a relationship with. By receiving forgiveness and understanding, they’ll be able to pass it on to others.
Boys (more than girls) might struggle with intimacy.
Girls have more role models of intimacy and marriage as the ideal in their environment than boys do, especially in the media. A father’s role-modeling of intimacy and interpersonal skills is more important for boys.
What to do now: If Dad is present, support the time your kids spend with him. If he isn’t in the picture, look for other good role models in male family members or in the media and scripture.
They might be more attached to things.
If your daughter falls for a man who is a minimalist and wants to purge every non-essential item, he might not understand when she doesn’t react well or takes it as a personal attack. But if she grew up having to leave half of her things behind every other week, she might develop some unhealthy attachments to her possessions.
What to do now: Focus on experiences over things for birthdays and Christmas. You’ll make plenty of memories and she can take those with her wherever she goes.
They might crave stability and control.
Sure, most people want stability, but for kids of divorced parents, their desire for stability is driven by living in two homes and possibly losing friendships and changing schools. It might make them unwilling to take risks or allow others to make important decisions.
What to do now: Provide as much stability as possible. Try hard to have the same routines and rules in both households.
What do you do to help your kids have a future with healthy relationships?