The toll of divorce

Annie Nguyen, staff writer

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Your parents call you and your sibling into the dining room. You think they are calling you in for dinner, when they tell you something you thought would never happen: they are getting a divorce. For many students at Kapaun Mt. Carmel, this is their reality.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), 40 to 50 percent of marriages in the United States end in divorce, and teenagers within those single-parent families are 300 percent more likely to need psychological help than teens in families with two parents.

According to Jann Gumbiner, a psychologist and clinical professor at the University of California, Irvine College of Medicine, divorce has a substantial effect on children, both long-term and short-term. Some examples of long-term effects are depression and anxiety, trust and relationship issues, educational behavior and divorce in their own marriages, among others.
One major issue of divorce is children believing the separation was their own fault.

Religion teacher Beth Ferraro said many children believe they could have done something to prevent the divorce. For junior Maria Nguyen, it took awhile for her to finally realize her parents’ divorce was not her fault.

“I never really knew the reason for their divorce so I just automatically assumed it was my fault,” Nguyen said. “Divorce sucks, and sometimes you feel like it’s your fault and you live with that, but one day you’ll soon realize that it just wasn’t meant to be and that you’re not at fault at all.”

Ferraro said since many go through divorce at such a young age, it is hard for them to comprehend why their parents want to separate. If their parents loved each other once, why does that love not remain?

“Sometimes they (the children) think, ‘well, if my parents didn’t have me then they would have stayed together,’” Ferraro said. “They try to create a reasoning, which ends up with a lot of kids taking on that guilt.”

For teens needing help to deal with a divorce, Ferraro advises finding someone to talk to, like a counselor or a teacher.
“They’ve got to release that guilt, they need a support system,” Ferraro said.

For some, their parents’ separation has become something they have grown accustomed to. Sophomore Megan Baker, whose parents divorced 10 years ago when she was 5, generally does not have any problems with her parents’ separation.

“I’m very lucky and don’t have to deal with many issues,” Baker said. “My parents almost never fight and are good friends now.”

Baker believes that for her family, the divorce was for the better.

“I was about 5 so I didn’t really have a reaction because I didn’t understand,” Baker said. “Now, I don’t really think of it as a negative thing because I’m used to it. They would fight a lot more if they lived in the same house. My parents also make it a point to stay close so we can grow up in a good home.”

Like Baker, freshman Felicity Grant* also believes her parents’ divorce was for the better.

¨It was a toxic relationship,” she said. ¨When they were together it was hard on them and my siblings, but when they were divorced, they were both great parents.¨

The divorce itself is not the only issue. Living situations and splitting time between parents can also complicate a student’s life.

“I’m currently living with my mom,” Grant said. ¨I go to dinner with my dad sometimes, but I normally don’t stay at his house. My dad remarried and had another kid. My sister and I don’t really get along with his new wife, so everyone decided that it would be for the better if we no longer went over to his house. My brother still continues to go over, though, as he does not seem to have any complications with my dad’s wife or step kids.”

Approximately 43 percent of students surveyed with divorced parents live with their mother and stepfather, and approximately 67 percent of students with divorced parents split time between their parents.

Ferraro believes there are many reasons for divorce, but they all lead back to one main cause: failure to compromise. Selfishness, infidelity, unrealistic expectations, and lack of support all fall under this category.

Ferraro also believes that when people do not have spiritual intimacy and do not share the same morals and values, marriage can become much more difficult.

“Intimacy is revealing yourself to someone in safety and in trust,” Ferraro said. “Today, we are such a sexified culture that people associate sex with intimacy, and that is not what intimacy is.”

Freshman Adam Sanchez*, who lives with his mother parents separated in 2007 when he was 4, sometimes wishes he had a father figure in his life, although he still believes that the divorce was the right decision. myself that a father should have helped with,” Sanchez said.

Freshman Charlotte Brown*, whose parents split when she was 7, believes the divorce has caused her to have separation anxiety.

“I do think that now I have some abandonment issues just because my dad isn’t there so often,” Brown said.

Senior Noah Smith*, whose parents also divorced when he was about 7, says his parents’ divorce has impacted the way he sees marriage now.

“I do not, and cannot, see myself in a relationship that will end with marriage,” Smith said. “I probably won’t get married.”

For Junior Breanna Cox, her parents’ divorce helps her to see what she could do differently in her own future marriage. Cox said that if she were in her parents’ position, she would have still chosen divorce, but work it out differently.

“My parents’ divorce pushes me to want to find the right person the first time, and to not rush into things,” Cox said. “And, if something does happen, to try and work through it.”

Brown also said she would have made some different choices if she were in her parents’ shoes.

“If I were them, I think I would have tried to stay together longer, or see if we could’ve worked out our issues for the sake of our kids,” Brown said.

Approximately 90 percent of students surveyed with divorced students believe the divorce was necessary and right.

To Cox, divorce is not always the right answer, but for some, it is the only answer.

“In my opinion, my parents did not get along at all, along with other issues,” said Cox. “It was right for them to get a divorce, but it’s not the right thing for everyone. Would I like my parents to still be together? Yeah, but that just wasn’t God’s plan. I pray that I marry the right person, so that I don’t have to go through a divorce, knowing from a child’s perspective who’s been through one, it’s really hard.”

*names changed to protect identities