Divorce Through a Child’s Eyes

Posted by: Shel 11 Comments

I’ve talked to many children whose parents are going through divorce. I often serve as a guardian ad litem for children – a cross between an attorney for the children and an arm of the court charged with the task of investigating a divorce matter in order to make recommendations to the judge regarding custody and visitation. In the 22 years I have served in this capacity, I have found three commonalities amongst the cases I’ve worked.

First, most children want their parents to stay together. They don’t care that the parents don’t like each other. They want their world, their sense of security, to stay intact. Yes, I know there are exceptions. I, personally, encountered very few.

Second, if they can’t have things stay as they are, they want their parents to be civil to each other. They want their parents to be civil about each other. They do not want to be put in the middle. They do not want to have to choose sides. Again, there are exceptions. I have found that most of the exceptions – a child wanting to choose a side – result from either the child witnessing/being a target of mistreatment by one parent or (much more often) a parent poisoning the child against the other.

Third, the first two truisms transcend gender and age of the children.

Want to hear a child’s perspective? Take two and a half minutes and watch this video – hear a “Dear Mom and Dad” letter represented to be written by a child whose parents were going through a divorce. I can’t verify that it was actually written by such a child, but I can verify it’s a message I have heard over and over again through the words and actions of children I have represented.

Related articles you may find helpful:

5 Ways to Help Your Child Through Divorce

Children in Divorce – 5 Things a Parent Should NEVER Say

What Children Want to Divorced Parents to Know About the Holidays

Like This Post? Never Miss Another!
We respect your privacy.

Leave a Reply


  • […] Divorce Through a Child’s Eyes       […]

  • it also effects how the kids view their own marriage one day…

    • Shel Harrington

      So true, Lin – and unfortunately we don’t see that effect for years!

  • Gina Kishur

    Powerful stuff. I see it every day. Kids caught in the middle of their parent’s fighting. It literally changes who they are, and who they are meant to be. So very sad.

  • TOO many parents do this. I am so glad you posted about this. If this post reaches and changes the way even one parent handles a divorce it will be worth it!!

    • Shel Harrington

      I agree, Amy. Often the key to change for a good parent is an awareness of what their behavior is doing to their kids – which is sometimes hard to focus on in the midst of divorce pain!

  • I will never forget that when we adopted our kids the agency gave out paperwork with advice and one of the biggies was not to get a divorce and it was because we were a transracial family in an international adoption, and that the kids always need the family intact. It made me think about the function of a family versus society and other groups to which we belong.

    • Shel Harrington

      That’s really interesting, Luanne. I wonder if we can get hospitals to include the brochure in their release follow-up papers with the birth of each baby. I know sometimes there’s a need for divorce, but it wouldn’t hurt folks to do that kind of reading before making a final decision when the reasons are less urgent.

Get updated by email when there's a new post!
We respect your privacy.