Noah Kovacs has over ten years experience in the legal field. He has since retired early and enjoys blogging about small business law, legal marketing, and everything in between. He recently purchased his first cabin and spends his free time remodeling its kitchen for his family. Twitter: @NoahKovacs
Of all intra-family relationship issues, divorce is quite possibly the most contentious, confounding, the hardest on a family, and the messiest. And when kids are involved, that already difficult process becomes considerably more complicated.
Even the scientific research on how divorce affects children is confusing. Results of the studies done are contradictory, often as not, making the gleaning of overall trends from metadata very difficult.In fact, the conclusions of these nearly annual studies are pretty much split right down the middle. Depending on the year and study, divorce-kids are either resilient enough to be caused no more than temporary distress or burdened with immediate and often life-long troubles. Of course, the reality is that every kid is different, meaning there are really no rules that apply to “children of divorce”.
As if all that wasn’t tough enough, kids’ perception of the divorce they’re dealing with and their reactions to it can be skewed by the seemingly endless parade of celebrity divorces. With media saturation inescapable as it is, shielding your children from the sordid details of celebrity culture is next to impossible. In fact, a lot of kids probably couldn’t avoid it if they tried.
The good news, however, is that despite the understandably prevailing opinion to the contrary, the celebrity blink-and-you’d-miss-it marriage culture isn’t necessarily the damaging, relationship-expectation-sabotaging influence it’s widely considered to be. Celebrity mini-marriage debacles (even particularly infamous examples like the Kardashian micro-matrimony) can serve as a convenient in-road for conversations about marriage and divorce in general. Plus, callous as it sounds, for some kids the sordidness of famous splits can provide a comforting basis for comparison- “My parents’ divorce is [or was] bad, but not THAT bad.”
For kids that empathize with the children of celebrity divorce, discussing the comparability of their respective situations and the pros and cons of each can be a productive communicatory avenue to take. What do they think: would dealing with the humiliating publicity be worth it if they could do so in a palatial mansion on the Upper East Side?
Infidelity is probably the toughest byproduct of high-profile divorces for parents who have dealt with the same thing. Deciding how much to tell, when to do so and which parent (or both) should handle the revelation is an incredible burden. Telling risks alienation and anger; not telling breeds sometimes lasting mistrust. And sometimes questions about celebrity cheating forces the issue.
Most psychiatrists agree that, generally, kids should be kept in the loop, which includes coming clean about an affair. There’s a fair chance they already feel alienated and angry, and frank honesty can sometimes be a balm. Plus, kids’ insight and intelligence are commonly underestimated, even by their parents. If an affair has been responsible for fights (not a rare reaction) there’s also a fair chance they know already.
Again, this stuff is always kid- and situation-dependent. Children under 11 or 12 may be unfamiliar with the concept or realities of an affair and telling will likely just confuse and distress them. If the affair-divorce involves teenage children though, parental-transparency should be considered; carefully. Keep in mind that divorce and being a teen are both stressful. You (hopefully) know your youngster well enough to assess their likely reaction. If your teen seems to be having a particularly hard time with the split and you feel that a disclosure of infidelity would only exacerbate an already painful situation, the divulgence can probably wait until your kid(s) are in a better place.
Whatever the particulars of your divorce and family size, communication is an absolute necessity for making the situation less painful, confusing and isolating for your child or children.