It’s impossible to ignore the influence of parents’ marriages on children, which can lead many parents to worry if their relationship challenges are infringing upon their children’s well-being. Research continually shows that the best case scenario for a child’s upbringing is to be raised by married parents. In fact, 2004 research by Gordon Berlin stated that “Children who grow up in an intact, two-parent family with both biological parents present do better on a wide range of outcomes than children who grow up in a single-parent family.”
While the majority of parents intend to bring a child into the world under the scope of a healthy, functioning marriage, we all know that life can get in the way. Disputes over finances, disagreements on core foundational beliefs, and even outgrowing one another are all possible in a marriage. What was originally a perfect atomic family can quickly become erratic, causing stress for everyone involved.
The divorce rate is spiking
Lisa Fei is the founder of the app Clarity, a social platform devoted to open communication and resources for all couples in need of expert opinions. She had noticed just how few resources are out there for couples (or, individuals going through breakups or needing relationship advice) when she was getting out of a dysfunctional relationship. A top priority for many Clarity users is ensuring that their children’s mental health and well-being are okay as parents sort through marital issues, which is especially pertinent now.
According to the Wall Street Journal, divorce filings have increased by 15% in light of the pandemic. And, with children at home as frequently as both parents, it’s nearly impossible to have necessary conversations (or, even, disagreements and accompanying healthy arguments) when kids can overhear.
“What’s critical is working out the problems one way or another, rather than letting them stew and cause increased frustrations,” Fei explained to me. “Since in-person therapy sessions have been suspended for the time being, it’s important to find other outlets for discussion and support: both as individuals and as a couple.”
When splitting up is best
Of course, if divorce is the only option, sometimes, going your separate ways is better for the entire family than trying to stay together to make it work. Many parents try to put their differences aside and stay together for the kids, but this has the potential to do more harm than good if the environment is very tense. These are decisions that you must arrive at with your partner, and no two situations will look the same.
If divorce is the only way to go, the emotional impact on children can look different depending upon their ages. It’s important to know how it can affect them, so that you and your partner can put their emotions and feelings first. According to VeryWell Family, grade school aged children may worry that the divorce is their fault, whereas teenagers may become angry and fall prey to resentment.
Putting your marriage first
Many couples live by the priorities of their children first, and their marriage second. If you and your spouse are committed to making it work, consider that those two priorities can be wrapped into one and fall under top priority.
A happy marriage sets the precedent for children to understand what a healthy relationship looks like (key word here: healthy. This doesn’t mean feigning happiness, and that’s why it’s so critical to split up if need be). Alongside efforts to spend time with the family on the whole or children one on one, make a weekly date night and consider consulting with experts and therapists to be constantly strengthening and improving your relationship. There are many virtual therapists or relationship and mental health support apps (like Clarity) that can ensure you and your partner make it through this trying time, and that your children’s best interests and emotional well-being is protected.