Elizabeth Bernstein of the WSJ weighs in on best practices for divorcing parents as to how to minimize harm to the children. It's a tough topic, mainly because it gets off on the wrong foot. The subject is analogous to one of best ways to cope with the sundry baneful health affects of overeating. The best advice is not to over eat. But, for some reason, the establishment advice to people suffering in their relationships--which is every person alive to one extent or another--is to split up. (That's what you're supposed to do before the marriage, not after it.) The technical questions concern minimizing the collateral damage.
The divorce of parents has been blamed for children's behavior problems, poor grades in school and even trouble in their own romantic relationships as adults. One study says the intensity of conflict between parents is one of the best predictors of how kids will do after a divorce.That's much too ambiguous and modest a statement of the copiously documented facts that (1) divorce smashes children's hearts, (2) consequently increases the probability of smashing their lives (3) and society (4) in the future (5) as well as in the present. Not to worry. Individual rights (liberal style) and all that. Noman refers anyone interested in the details to the work of Pat Fagan at the Family Research Council.
Cutting edge techniques discussed include encounter groups for 2nd through 5th graders, parenting plans, prepared scripts to questions and mission statements.
It may include a "short story" explaining to the children why the marriage ended—"We loved each other very much in the beginning and hoped we could make a life together that would last forever, but we were wrong. You had no fault in this. While we will have different households, we think we will do a better job at being parents"—and a "mission statement" describing how they hope to behave.
"This gives kids the freedom to love both parents," Ms. Aronsohn says.All of this strikes John Mulcahy of Philadelphia as a bunch of hooey: Get Real on Divorce's Damage to Kids. He impresses Noman as a man more firmly rooted in reality than the sundry experts Bernstein approvingly cites.
As a child of divorce, I found this almost laughable. If divorced parents were capable of cooperating like this, they would still be married. Living in a post-divorce atmosphere of civility and respect would send a clear message to the children, not that they are loved, but that their reasonable and accommodating parents apparently couldn't be bothered to put as much hard work into saving their family...
So, please, if we have to have divorce (and I'm not saying we do), let's keep it messy—for the children.Though you didn't ask, Noman would like to share what he does whenever the stress of living with Nowife and the No-children get to him as it inevitably does. We're all just people, and people have their bad moments. Moreover, life is a perpetual challenge, which is the nature of contingent being. When the four corners of Noman's mind close in on the center with the messages that "Nowife is not doing this or that," "No-whoever doesn't appreciate me" or whatever nonsense, Noman turns to God and begs Him to show Noman where he is wrong. If this relationship is from God--which Noman ardently believed before entering marriage, always has, still does, and prays he always will--then surely these voices are not. God has proven happy to oblige, and usually does so in short order.
The problem it seems is entering marriage with the mindset to continue life as an individual who chooses to behave communally in this or that way, contractually so to speak. That might be easy to fathom regarding your spouse who, after all, is just another adult like you. But, children put that perspective to the lie. Once a third person is born into the world by virtue of shared agency, it becomes abundantly clear to those with figurative eyes to see that family is not (and never really was) an individual enterprise. In potency, even if not consciously in act, marriage is always about us, not me.
Noman often finds that peace, love, harmony and happiness flow from accepting metaphysical reality as it is, according to the nature of the thing at hand, in this case marriage. They never come from forcing his will onto reality. At the end of the day, that final, dispositive, sundering imposition of individual will in a family context is what hurts the children, not the incivility with which the ubermensch conducts himself in the abyss after acting like a god. Before the split is the time to act for the children's sake. They deserve as much.