Divorce: Kids Caught in the Middle

Natalia Marron, Staff Writer

   Divorce rates in America have rapidly increased in recent years. According to a recent statistic, nearly 40-50 percent of marriages end in divorce. As partners split property, money, and assets, many are left wondering: what about couples with children? How does this affect them?

  While separation can often be beneficial for the living environment, the idea of having to split custody or other arrangements can often cause issues for both kids and parents. 

   “I was forced to stay with my mom, and then I was forced to see my dad on the weekends. I’m not really sure about how I feel about it, I was just confused,” Freshman Zyanya Fuentes- Munoz said. 

   For many, custody is decided by the court through intricate systems created by attorneys, psychologists, and court recommendations. 

   “I will always advocate for children to have a connection to both parents. All children want connection and seek out the acknowledgment and acceptance of their parents. Kids don’t want to choose and don’t want to feel stuck in the middle,” child and family therapist Sarah Manlupig said.

   However, what is right? There is no real way to measure how children can and will be affected by divorce.

   “I feel like younger kids are not as affected because they grow up without the knowledge of what their parents are going through,” freshman Landen Myhrum said. 

    Some parents choose to wait to divorce or tell the children about their problems until their children are older to try to avoid the negative mental impact. However, children can often feel responsible for their parent’s divorce when they aren’t aware of the entire situation. 

 “[It] definitely had a mental impact because I grew up thinking things like, why aren’t my parents together? Am I the problem?,”  Fuentes-Munoz said.

  Kids often have very little say in the matter, but the mental effects of a parent fighting over custody or how to co-parent can be life-changing.     

   “When emotions become hidden and hushed, it leaves the child with no narrative, and when kids don’t have a narrative they will make one up for themselves, and oftentimes it is far from the reality creating trauma for the child,” Manlupig said.

 While most courts decide to do partial custody or grant sole custody to one parent, kids can find it unfair and may gravitate towards one parent when older. 

   “I feel like a lot of the time it’s more inclined to have women have full custody. But in this case, my father and my mom both got split custody, but I decided that I wanted my mom to have full custody,” Myhrum said. 

   The main thing Manlupig stressed was each family making a decision that is best for everyone. 

   “Every family has to make separation decisions based on their morals, values, and needs. Ultimately, it comes down to the parents getting along, finding common ground, and making it about the kids and not the parents,” Manlupig said.

      Regardless of personal issues, making sure children are aware of the situation may help both parties, by helping to stop confusion and mixed emotions.

   “One of the biggest things that I notice in my work is parents attempting to protect their children from any emotions ends up leaving the child confused and sad,” Manlupig said, “Ultimately it comes down to the parents getting along, finding a common ground and making it about the kids and not the parents because Children ultimately want their families together.”

   There are no real ways to measure the effect of divorce on the child, but it is up to the parent to ensure they are doing the right thing for their child and family.