Congratulations to our fall 2020 scholarship winner, Rachel Allison! Below is her essay.

By Rachel Allison

Divorce is a difficult situation for everyone involved. Whether the cause is infidelity, some form of abuse, or a drifting apart of two people who pledged their lives to each other at one point in time, it is an ending of something that was once a bright start. When children are involved, divorce is more difficult, not just legally, but emotionally as well for all parties.

Several steps can be taken to make the transition easier for the children. First, it is imperative that children feel emotionally stable. They need to feel there is still some structure in their lives. Also, they need to be recognized as individuals that need nurturing and support, not only through the divorce process, but also long after the separation is completed.

Many times, children of divorce wonder if they had a part in the cause of the divorce. Parents need to work together to offer reassurance to the children and support them emotionally during and after the divorce process. Parents should be honest about what is happening along the way. They should sit down with the children and talk about what has happened and what will happen. They should never allow the child to assume blame. They should allow time for the children to ask questions, and be honest in the response, even if the parents don’t know the answer at that time. They should reassure the children that they still love them, and that nothing will change that. Then follow through with that by showing up when expected, focusing on the children’s needs, and spend quality time with them. The children should never feel unloved or less loved by one parent.

Divorce can cause upheaval for children. In many cases, children’s time is split between two homes, in other cases, they have limited or no time with one of the parents. Constant change is hard on children and can leave them feeling like they do not have roots anywhere. Without roots, how can the children grow in a stable environment? Children thrive with consistency – whether it is a classroom schedule, musical lessons every Thursday night, or pizza every Friday night for dinner. Structure is something they can count on, something they can rely on, something that they crave. For example, parents should try to discipline in similar ways, not having one parent the disciplinarian while the other allows the children to get away with anything and buy them anything. Without having confidence in some redefined structure created by the divorce, children will grasp at whatever short term thing that is a cheap substitute for the stability they yearn for. This can lead to failing grades, substance abuse, and unfulfilling relationships.

Finally, children should always be valued as individuals. Parents shouldn’t clump then together as “the kids,” or worse, allow a new relationship to minimize the importance of the parent/child bond. The parents should make their best effort of presenting a united front when it comes to decisions regarding the children. Children should be allowed to form their own opinions regarding the parents instead of the parents making negative comments about each other and trying to turn the children against the other parent. As the children grow up, parents should respect the decisions the children make in regards to time spent with each as long as the relationships remain healthy.

Regardless of marital status, parents should want the best for their children and continue to make the necessary sacrifices to assure that their children grow up feeling loved, supported, and unique. By putting the needs of the children ahead of their possible need to retaliate against the other parent, parents can make the transition to the “new normal” of family life bearable and possibly even beneficial for the children.