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This blog is maintained by the Ruth Institute. It provides a place for our Circle of Experts to express themselves. This is where the scholars, experts, students and followers of the Ruth Institute engage in constructive dialogue about the issues surrounding the Sexual Revolution. We discuss public policy, social practices, legal doctrines and much more.
Children of divorce, we are told, don’t suffer negative effects from their parents’ divorce. Unhappy marriages drag the parents down, which makes everyone unhappy. The solution, which permeates nearly every aspect of media, public policy, therapy, and even some quarters of the clergy, is divorce ideology, including switching sexual partners at will. This solution, complete with smiling, happy children, is preached as the ill for what ails us.
Instead of the promised panacea, many divorced parents find their pre-divorce problems still plague them. The probability of another divorce increases in a second marriage. And children, so often an after-thought in the whole process, are left suffering tremendous negative side effects.
All too often, children are not permitted to voice their real feelings. Love inside the family feels fragile: the kids have absorbed the message that people sometimes leave each other, or get kicked out. They may view love as unreliable. Even if children could verbalize their feelings, (which they can’t) they are afraid to risk losing their parents’ love. They don’t want to upset mom or dad. The children are silenced, or learn to silence themselves.
The children of divorce are socially invisible. If they have a problem, we take them to therapy. We put them on medication. But we never admit that maybe the adults should have worked as hard on their marriages as they seem to work on managing their divorce. And we certainly never tell the adults not to remarry.
So many children of divorce struggle massively with the emotional toll that the divorce took on them. From their perspective, each parent is half of who the child is. When the parents reject each other, they are rejecting half of the child. They may tell the child, “We still love you: we just don’t love each other.” The child cannot make sense of this impossible contradiction. In my opinion, this is the underlying reason for the negative side effects of divorce on children.
We, as a society, are faced with two competing world-views on divorce: 1. Divorce Ideology and 2. The traditional sexual ethic. Divorce ideology, reinforced by our media and culture, prioritizes parents’ sexual desire over all else, minimizes children’s rights, and requires state intervention. Children of divorce are not valued by the ideology or even the system.
The traditional sexual ethic, on the other hand, starts with the premise that children have identity rights and relational rights to their parents, that marriage exists to not only bind children to their biological parents, but to protect these rights, and naturally places legitimate obligation on the parents to protect and care for their biological children. When children are deprived of these rights without an inescapable reason, it is an injustice to the children.
We talk about protecting the rights of vulnerable populations, but we often forget that children are among the most vulnerable populations. We discard the systems built over thousands of years to protect them, and then silence them with the power of the state and a shattered family dynamic. No wonder children of today are struggling so much. Isn’t it time we changed our societal approach?
Leila Miller has done us all a great service by giving a voice to the Children of Divorce. Please read her book, Primal Loss: The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak, share it with friends, family, counselors, teachers, and pastors. Break the silence. Do it for your own family, and for the families of future generations.
If you are a child of divorce, have suffered negative effects because of divorce, or know someone who has, please visit our resource page here. Our resource page contains information to understand the why, the how, and the consequences of divorce culture, and has resources to help survivors.