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Don’t forget the children of divorce

by Merrie Leininger

Before I start, I want to admit: no, my parents are not divorced; and no, I am not married, nor do I have children.

However, I see a lot of this little town during the course of doing my job.

I regularly see men in court for refusing to pay their child support. I see single mothers scramble to make child care arrangements because they are about to go to jail.

And I’ve interviewed parents and children who are going through divorces. Many of those parents may have not done anything illegal, but they still should be arrested for the way they put their children in the middle of such a horrible rift.

When going through a divorce, it seems some parents lose the ability to think past the pain they are feeling and look at the pain their children are feeling.

Two middle school girls I recently spoke to told me of cajoling, bribing – and when that didn’t work, screaming – parents. These two girls were floating in a sea without a port in site. One girl seemed to have taken over the role of mother in her home. She was forced to maintain communication between parents and to prop up her devastated mother.

Even though I haven’t been through a divorce, I can empathize with these girls.

Even though I haven’t done a survey, I know their experiences are shared by too many children.

So many, that one school counselor I talked to said she has a hard time going out in public and acting civil to the parents she meets on the streets. She listens to their children’s pain daily. And I got a small dose of that when I interviewed the two girls. It broke my heart. I was so angry at their parents, I was tempted to use their names in the story. However, I had promised the girls to protect their identity.

Children should be affected by a divorce as little as possible. They are innocent bystanders. For them, their parents’ divorce is already the equivalent of getting hit by a runaway train.

Don’t use a child as a way to get information about your ex-spouse. Don’t tell your children about all the bad things he or she did to you and how happy you are now that they are gone.

Or better yet, do what I did. Before you have children, ask the hard questions about your parenting ability and the strength of your marriage. Maybe you will discover what I have about myself – I am not parent material. As my co-worker, Christy says, parenting is not for the cowardly.

Some people may think these are obvious suggestions that every couple thinks about. But you would be surprised.

Just ask any Douglas County judge.

Ask any CASA worker who is called into a court case to represent a child.

Ask any school counselor or anyone from Family Support Council.

Just ask any child who is the victim of divorce.