Should We Stay Together For The Kids?

Regardless of your family situation or length of your marriage, the decision to divorce your spouse is not an easy one. This tumultuous choice is complicated by children, if you have any. Many spouses lose sleep over the timeless question: Do we stay together for the kids?

Mother and child

Resoundingly, industry leaders believe that staying in a truly unhappy union is unhealthy for children, and that having happy parents is far more important than having parents who are married. However for many, the decision to separate isn’t so clear cut.

Do I want to get a divorce?

As simple as it may sound: you first need to evaluate whether or not you want to be divorced from your spouse. One thought that is widely accepted is that “consistency is key”, and whether you decide to stay married or get divorced, ensure that this decision has been made confidently, and that you are prepared to share it with your children.

You may consider working towards rebuilding your marriage, if both parties feel strongly about re-creating a strong relationship. Marriage counsellors and individual therapists are experts at facilitating frank discussions about love, intimacy and commitment. Dedicating time to one or more of these strategies may either reaffirm your commitment to your spouse, or validate your intention to get divorced in the first place.

What is best for my children?

Your next concern should be your children. At the forefront of your decisions, you must consider how you can keep your children feeling secure and supported. Every family is unique, and you undoubtedly understand the effect that the news of your divorce will have on your children better than any psychologist. It likely goes without saying that separating a family is not an easy process. In fact this can be the hardest experience of your youth. However, you cannot focus on the short-term effects of staying together for the kids. If it’s truly their best interest you have at heart, consider how this decision will effect them - forever.

Kids Perceive More Than You Realize

If your intention is to stay together for your children’s happiness, despite your non-existent interest in continuing your marriage, you might want to consider that your children are quite perceptive. In this Huffington Post article, writer Joe DeProspero recalls sensing his parents unhappiness even before the age of 5. Joe noticed uncomfortable silences, a lack of shared joy, and even bits of conversation clearly unintended for his ears. He once heard his father say, “The kids are all I have in this house”. Although we all like to think we can be secretive and discreet, sometimes words fall through the cracks. These words can be detrimental to a child who thought his parents were happily married.

Parents fighting in front of kids

Your unhappiness is their unhappiness

A 2009 report by the National Research Council in conjunction with the Institute on Medicine revealed that children who grow up with just one depressed parent are tied to increased rates of “difficult” temperaments and reduced self esteem. Especially at a young age, your children are very impressionable. This fact is undisputed in the case of both emotional and physical abuse: these instances are grounds for divorce, and it is in the children’s safety to remove yourself and all children from such a household.

If you or a loved one is struggling with spousal abuse, please call: 1-800-799-7233, The National Domestic Hotline

Be open and honest with your spouse and children

Regardless of the decision you and your spouse arrive at, children are happiest and healthiest when they are informed about family matters. Whether you’re experiencing a rough patch, working towards a stronger marriage, or beginning the separation process, share it with your children - within reason. Your children will appreciate the open communication, and this will open opportunities for questions and healing, instead of hurt and shock.

For example, it may be hard to explain to your 6 year old that your spouse is having an affair. You might tell a younger child that simply, you won’t be married anymore. Whereas you might tell your 16 year old that your spouse hasn’t been faithful.

Read our blog post on How to Tell Your Children You’re Getting a Divorce if you have yet to break the news to your kids that you are separating. However, if you have already told your children about your divorce, then your next goal should be keeping the dialogue open and the topic of divorce approachable. We have compiled several important considerations to keep in mind when talking to your children about your divorce.

Growing up with happily married parents is ideal, but... 

We won’t sugar-coat it: it’s easier for children to grow up with two parents happily married, than to witness a divorce of the two people who raised them. But what’s worse than either of those options? Watching two parents who are sincerely not meant to be, feign happiness for the sake of the child. Studies show that children whose parents get divorced can have equally happy and healthy childhoods as those whose parents remain married.

Take care of yourself 

We understand the overwhelming love and care you have for your children. They come first, often before ourselves. In this case, take time to reflect on what’s right for you. Is that separating from your spouse? If so, consider that what’s right for you at this time, may also be what’s best for your children in the long run.

Be there for your children

Should you decide to pursue an amicable divorce, see how Thistoo can help you separate quickly, painlessly and inexpensively.