There is no question that divorce is a risk factor, but having divorced parents does not mean you’re doomed! There is a lot that children and adults can do to ensure the child’s future success and to help young people meet their personal potential.
I include these statistics in my presentation because when measuring teen pregnancy, chemical dependency, and incarceration, it is often the case that we know whether they are living with two married people or living in a single parent home. Often, we don’t know if the parents were married, and then divorced; never married; divorced and remarried; widowed; or widowed and remarried. These statistics apply to all children who do not live with their married biological parents.The programs available for children of divorce also benefit children from these nontraditional families. It is my belief that these statistics can be improved by implementing programs, like Blended Love’s Things Change Journal Program, that equip all children to cope positively with family change.
Many children are suffering in silence and choosing unhealthy coping mechanisms because adults fail to acknowledge the impact of their home lives. We minimize their feelings and assume they’ll bounce back. In failing to acknowledge the problem, we never get around to actually addressing it. We have programs focused on sex education, drug and alcohol abuse, character, and the importance of education, and we wonder why teens are choosing risky behaviors and failing to do their best in school. It is because we fail to address the root of the problem. We attempt to motivate a generation that won’t be motivated by lectures and pep talks. We need to start addressing the real problem.Keeping this in mind, the answer is clear: we need to look at the research, examine the child’s special needs, and begin meeting those needs to keep children, healthy, happy, and on track to meeting their potential.
That’s brings us to the second claim: It is sad watching these children – but there is so much we can do to help.
First, we can educate ourselves – about the problem, it’s impacts, and the child’s special needs. I have included some slides that outline the typical three year adjustment period for children whose parents handle their divorces well, as well as the out-of-sync needs table, which describes how the needs of the child and the resources of the divorcing parent are often out of sync after divorce. Please take a look at those slides later.
First, we can educate ourselves – about the problem, it’s impacts, and the child’s special needs.Second, meet the child’s needs. Depending on their developmental stage, children of divorce have different needs. Still, all children, particularly children of divorce, need stability, security, emotional support and guidance, and examples of healthy relationships, healthy communication and conflict resolution, and healthy coping skills. Children need adult guidance for how to deal with relationships and their emotions. This is getting harder and harder to come by, as more and more adults lacked their own examples in their youth. It can be a vicious cycle if we choose not to educate ourselves.
Regardless of developmental stage, all children, especially children of divorce, have these needs.
We can help address this pervasive social problem as parents, as individuals, and as a community. Community support, such as Blended Love’s Things Change Journal Program and the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative’s skills-based relationship classes, allow adults the opportunity to address this timely problem by investing in their relationships, serving as positive examples to their children and others, and by providing real support and guidance for children coping with family changes.
In summary, children of divorce are not fine and they need our attention. They are not doomed(!), but they do need our support. As adults, we can educate ourselves, become volunteers or mentors, and request cost-effective, school-based programs, such as Blended Love’s Things Change Journal program, for our schools. The time to help children of divorce is now.
Making the Case for Advocacy
for Children of Divorce
“Divorce is a normal part of growing up
today. Kids bounce back.”
“I feel so bad for these kids, but there’s
nothing I can do to help them.”
The Kids Aren’t Fine.
Let’s look at
Children of Divorce exhibit…
a higher divorce rate
lower marriage rate
more learning difficulties
poorer social skills
earlier sexual activity
poorer conflict-resolution skills
increased gang involvement
more insecurity, anxiety, and depression
as compared to children with married parents and their
own pre-divorce performance.
For Children of Divorce
Have grades that are 20% lower
Are nearly twice as likely to be sexually
Are 70% more likely to be expelled/
suspended from school
(as compared to their peers living with their married parents)
One in 3 drop out of high school.
Children from Nontraditional Families
75% of teen pregnancies
75% of children/adolescents in chemical
1 out of 5 children have a learning,
emotional, or behavioral problem due to
the family system changing.
More than one half of all youths
incarcerated for criminal acts
Behavioral Statistics (continued)
Multiple risk factors
– Nine million American children face risk factors that may hinder
their ability to become healthy and productive adults. One in
seven children deal with at least four of the risk factors, which
include growing up in a single-parent household...The survey
also indicated that children confronting several risk factors are
more likely to experience problems with concentration,
communication, and health.
63% of suicides
The Children Say…
“It’s not true!”
“If I only I was good…”
“I’m so worried.”
“What’s going to happen to me?”
“How will other people treat me now?”
“I’m not too young to miss my daddy.”
The Children Say…(continued)
“I don’t know how I’m supposed to act.”
“If you tell me what’s happening, I won’t
be so upset.”
“I feel terrible and I want to talk about it,
but I’m scared to bring it up.”
“I say everything’s fine, but it’s really not.”
My parents’ divorce
My work with children
YMCA camp counselor, Jr. Leaders Club, and
After-school drama and music program
Public schools – speaker, tutor
My goal: to be a role model and supporter
We’re Not Alone
Family troubles affect students across all
classes, all social barriers
– Oswego Middle School – Summer school
– Sally asked, “Can you keep a secret?”
– Eugene Field Elementary in 2004
Over one million American children experience
the divorce of their parents every year.
Oklahoma has the second highest divorce rate in
We fail to acknowledge this
social problem and address it.
The impact of divorce on
children can be devastating.
Helping Strategies for Adults
Three Year Adjustment Period
The Parent May/Must…
Find outside emotional support
Work & provide income
Assume single parent role
Juggle many needs, some
Be a parent
The Child May/Must…
Reassume role of a child
Adjust to change in parenting
Continue status quo at school
Be normal/adjusted and nice
Out of sync stages and needs
Parental consistency Inconsistent Mixed Message Anger... Confrontation
Must work or be
support for education
Preoccupied child with
A Home Separate home
Two or more
Out of sync stages (continued)
Overall effect Educational
Parents angry at ex-
Child must take sides
Explosions at school
To be parented,
trying to get by
Appears chaotic to the
child, parent may not
be there when needed
To mourn and be
Feels guilty for
making child sad …
Child then takes on
adult roles to protect
Allow the child
freedom to grow…
with the child
Child’s View of Death vs. Divorce
Family life different
Fear of losing other parent
Changes in lifestyle
Physical death vs. no body
Public acknowledgement vs.
no public acknowledgement
Part of life cycle
Will never see person again
Caught in the middle
Hope of reconciliation
Helping Strategies for Adults
Meet the child’s needs.
– Security & stability
– Emotional support & guidance
– Examples & information
Good communication & conflict resolution skills
Healthy coping skills
The Child Needs…
An explanation for the divorce.
Awareness of upcoming changes.
Reassurance of parental love, concern & support.
Permission to express sadness, anger, and grief.
Coping strategies for dealing with sadness, anger, and
Permission to focus on age appropriate activities.
Freedom from parental conflict.
Freedom from pressure to take sides.
Permission to love both parents.
Examples & knowledge of healthy relationships.
We can help!
– Including teachers, child care providers,
coaches, youth ministers, etc.
As a community
– Blended Love’s programming
– Calm Waters
– And many other programs.
Children of divorce are not fine. They
need our attention.
They are not doomed, but they do need
Become a volunteer or mentor.
Request programming for your school.