No one gets married thinking they will get a divorce.
And yet, today’s statistics indicate that approximately 40 percent of marriages end in divorce. There is evidence divorce rates have declined since the 1990’s, when there was a 50-60 percent divorce rate. However, current statistics may not accurately reflect the rate at which parents split up because family structures have changed dramatically over the years.
Many couples today are not married. Some couples have long-term commitments and are raising children together; some couples do not share a commitment to one another but have one or more children together, and there are more children being raised in “blended families” (families with children from other relationships) than there are two-parent households.
What Do the Statistics Show about Children?
Many websites publish alarming statistics on the effect of divorce and separation on children. Children exposed to the long-term parental conflict of parents are at the highest risk of adolescent adjustment issues, including:
- Truancy and higher rates of school dropout;
- Alcohol and drug addictions with the highest age risk of drug and alcohol addictions leading to serious problems begin in the early to mid-20’s;
- Depression and teen suicides;
- Teen pregnancies
- Issues with law enforcement. Statistics also indicate that many of inmates of prisons did not have positive parental role models, particularly, a father. )
I agree with these websites. However, I also give my clients this encouragement.
In my work, I have discovered that children are incredibly resilient. However, they are resilient with the support of active parents that make the effort to effectively work together to raise their children in peaceful, separate households.
Resilient children were raised by parents (married or unmarried) that did the following:
- Parents worked through healthy closure of the love relationship and respected the private lives of one another.
- Parents learned ways to effectively communicate about their children.
- Parents learned to reconcile parental discipline differences, agreed upon developing respect in their children by modeling respect between one another, discussed and agreed upon the most important values they wanted to be instilled in their children, etc. In other words, there was continuity between the parents in the most important areas.
- Parents resolved conflict in healthy ways through resources, education, or effective intervention.
These parents also were less likely to experience repeated court hearings once legal processes were finalized.
Families Can Be Strong and Vibrant!
No matter what the statistics, parents can – and do – beat the odds and have a healthy break-up that does not leave permanent emotional scars on the children. Here are some examples from my own practice with parents who are going through a divorce. I have seen:
countless strong and resilient parents break barriers to conflict.
many parents bravely process the incredibly difficult emotions that relationship breakup and divorce involves.
parents with the courage and strength to forgive themselves and one another and move forward for the sake of one another as parents and for the children they share.
I encourage you to not lose sight of the strength and the importance of vibrant families. Parents are capable of accomplishing great things with resources and education while tapping into their faith system and support networks.
Divorce and separation will change the way the way the family functions, but it need not destroy one another or their children. There is a way to ensure parents develop the right attitude towards effective co-parenting.
The AARC Principle
I teach this principle to the parents I work with. It is called The AARC Principle.
The AARC, is a Bridge of Acceptance, a Bridge of Communication, and a Bridge of Tolerance, which spells ACT, because what parents think, they will act on.
Accept the right of one another to have a difference of opinion and treat the needs and concerns of one another to be as valid as one’s own.
Appreciate the time, the talents and gifts that you each give to your children. Remember that you are not replaceable in the lives of your children. Keep expectations of one another reasonable and avoid being overly critical or demanding of one another unless it places a child at verifiable risk.
Respect the right of one another to parent. Respect one another in all communications, because children learn respect from what they see modeled by their parents. Be aware of the power of words, for words have the power to heal or destroy. What you say or do to one another will have an impact on your children, and what you do to one another, you indirectly do to your children.
Communicate the needs of your children. Communication in co-parenting is critical for the safety and well-being of children.
When you embrace it, The AARC Principle will build a Bridge of Gold for you and your children. Be a brave parent! Be a part of the positive divorce statistics of tomorrow, because I know that you can!