Children are devastated by divorce. You may have heard that “Kids are resilient! They bounce back!” but it’s not true. When parents divorce, a child’s world is ripped apart. I believe that the worst consequence of divorce for children is that they do not have role models who can show them what ahappy, healthy, life-long marriage looks like. Not to mention that many divorced parents don’t have a lot of nice things to say about each other. What does a child learn from that? Simply how to say nasty things about another person.
As a twice-divorced mom, the last thing I want is for any of my three kids to go through divorce again, as adults. But, again, as a divorced mom, how do I know what to teach them? Well, I like to think that I’ve learned a few things from the mistakes I’ve made. Do you remember that Rod Stewart song, “I WishThat I Knew What I Know Now, When I Was Younger?” That’s the story of my life! If only I had been wise enough to understand what it really means to compromise and sacrifice. If I had paid attention to the red flags that kept popping up, then I may have avoided two divorces!
While I was creating this program, I asked a class of high school students to complete a survey. The statistics are true – 50% of these kids had divorced parents. Most of them talked about not being able to see the non-custodial parent as much as they would like. It’s so sad when kids are not able to have the benefit of both a full-time mom and dad. It’s even worse when they’re forced to choose between their parents, which happens much too frequently.
I created the program entitled, “Don’t Do What I Did! Teaching Teens with Divorced Parents How to Have a Successful Marriage” because I believe with all my heart that teens and young adults just need a little education and guidance when they start thinking about choosing a spouse. When I started dating,my mom didn’t talk to me about red flags and common values. I didn’t stop to think that the bad boy,who was so cute, was probably not going to make the best life partner.
And, once I decided to get married, I didn’t really think about how to make sure it was a happy, life-long-lasting marriage. I didn’t think about compromise, or sacrifice. Working as a team didn’t really cross my mind. I was young and stupid. I would have been happy if I could have been young and informed.
This program is designed to be used with a group of teens and one leader, or a parent and their child can go through it together. There are puzzles, exercises, and lots of opportunity for discussion. The object is to get the teens talking about healthy relationships that will ultimately become a healthy marriage.
Some important topics that the leaders and the kids will discuss include:
Do Your Parents Have a Clue?
Sacrifice – Is It Worth It?
Getting Through the Rough Spots in a Marriage
These are common sense topics, but we’re never really taught these things when we’re starting to date.And, if parents are divorced, it’s even harder to learn about the basics of having a healthy relationship.They certainly don’t teach you this in school!
Through my research and personal experience, I’ve learned that it’s vital to be on the same page regarding the following topics:
Money- Money fights and money problems are the number one cause of divorce in America. It’s crucial that a married couple is on the same page about money. Simple budgeting and financial goal discussions will help avoid money fights, and also increase communication.
Children- This is a very important discussion to have before you get married. How many kids do both people want? Do they both even want to have kids? How soon after the wedding do you want to start planning for kids? Will one parent stop working in order to stay home with the kids?
In-Laws- Remember, you aren’t marrying one person, you’re marrying his or her entire family! It’s very important to agree on how often you’ll visit the parents and the in-laws. How will holiday time be divided? If family lives in another state, how often will those visits occur?
Religion- Whether or not you decide to be a religious family, it’s important to be on the same page.
There are certainly times when someone needs to leave an abusive or destructive marriage. No one should ever put up with abuse, addiction problems, or continual adultery. But, if young adults take the time to choose the right spouse, they will hopefully avoid these major issues. Then, they can work on having a happy, healthy, life-long marriage.
Diane O’Neil is a writer and mom from beautiful Allen, TX. She lives with her three kids ages 20,17 and 13. Visit www.YouWontLearnThisInSchool.com for more information.