Saturday, April 20 2024

A few years ago, when I worked as a catechist in Rome, I was teaching on
the topic of the Annunciation. I took advantage of the occasion to speak a
bit on Jesus’ earthly family. At one point in the discussion, one of the
children declared, “My greatest fear is that my parents will get a
divorce”.

After her statement, the other children commented, one after another,
“That’s my fear too!” And every single one of them said that.

There were ten children in the class, which isn’t exactly a sample vast
enough for us to make the claim that “all children’s greatest fear is the
separation of their parents”. However, that one episode did make me think.

I’m no psychologist or pediatrician, but I began to reflect on how children
do not come separately from one father or one mother, but from the union of
both. No law, no ideology can change this reality.

Without judging those who have found divorce to be the only solution to
their problems, we shouldn’t forget that divorce is traumatic for the
children involved.

Separation: Source of Suffering for Spouses and Children

The end of marriage is always a source of suffering and hardship. This
reality, often minimalized, should be the starting point, rather than the
end point, of a reflection on the subject.

Two people who get married nourish hopes and dreams about their union, with
varying degrees of consciousness. It’s assumed that if two people decide to
get married, it is because they believe and hope to spend the rest of their
lives together.

Whatever the reasons may be that lead to a separation, it is certain that
in each case there is a falling out that creates wounds. But what happens
when divorce happens between those who have children? How do the children
live the experience of their parents’ separation? Many people believe that
children can grow well even with separated parents; what counts for the
child is their mommy or daddy’s love for them, not the love they have for
each other. But is this so?

Fighting: The First Cause of Pain

Many psychologists agree that children grow better with separated parents
than in an atmosphere of conflict between the parents who live together.
Dr. Marco Schneider, psychologist and family psychotherapist, and Dr.
Stefania Ferrari, psychologist and family mediator, are of this belief.
According to a


study


they had conducted, there would be a close correlation between the conflict
among parents (who are together or separated) and the psychological damage
of the children. Their conclusion is that it is thus more important that
parents not remain in a situation of conflict rather than remain together
at all costs.

There are extreme situations for which separation provides the only way
out. In the general audience of Wednesday June 24, 2015, Pope Francis
stated, “There are cases in which separation is inevitable, and there are
times when it may even be morally necessary.” He continued by saying that
there are even oppressive situations “when it is a matter of removing the
weaker spouse or young children from the gravest wounds caused by abuse and
violence, by debasement and exploitation, by neglect and indifference.”

The Ideal Environment is Still the United Family

Even though the first causes of hurt in children are conflict and violence,
we cannot forget that divorce itself, even when lived in apparent harmony,
produces wounds in children.

Children are a fruit of union; they do not come from two separated persons.
This, on the biological and anthropological level cannot be considered an
irrelevant fact. Children, coming from that union, naturally seek
protection in it and want to participate in it.

Children do not only prefer to live with both parents, rather than go from
one house to the other, but they are happy to see that their mom and dad
love each other. To be raised in a united family helps them to gain
security and trust in human relationships.


Parents’ Relationship: The First Relational Model for Children

We can’t forget the fact that children learn how to relate to others,
including their future spouses, from the relationship they developed with
their parents and saw between their parents. A person who has witnessed the
breakdown of his/her own family can be reluctant to believe in solid and
lasting relationships, and have a tough time with serious commitment
because they fear relationships, though perhaps unconsciously.

There are many difficulties that can arise from these situations which, in
each case, are perceived by the child as abnormal conditions. This is
demonstrated in a


study


conducted by the Center of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy ( Centro de Psicología Clínica y Psicoterapia).

Love among Spouses: A Good for the Children

A man and woman become father and mother together. A child who
sees that his father loves his mother and vice a versa can more easily
discover what love is.

But those who have failed in the task of showing the marvels of spousal
love are not stigmatized. Condemning someone from the outside is as easy as
it is unjust.

Those who are undertaking the mission of becoming parents, however, must
remember that cultivating love is not just a good for themselves, but also
for the children. It’s a completely different experience when children see
their parents living a fruitful, peaceful, and harmonious relationship and
when they endure their parents’ fighting until the day of definitive
division.

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