Tuesday, February 07, 2017

The Worst Thing for a Child to Experience

Sterling State Park, Monroe

The worst thing for a child to experience is having their father and mother divorce. Anyone who thinks otherwise should read, for beginners, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: The 25 Year Landmark Study, by Judith Wallerstein. Contrary to the popular, mythical belief that kids will bounce back after the initial pain of their parents' split, children of divorce often continue to suffer well into adulthood.

The second worst thing that can happen to a child is for their parents to involve them in the marital conflict. When one parent makes their case against the other, to the child. When the child becomes their confidant and, horror upon horrors, the child becomes their counselor. When the parent tries to become the child's friend, instead of the child's parent. It is hard for trained counselors to help troubled people. How, then, can an untrained child be expected to help their deeply troubled father or mother?

Imagine a child lying in bed at night with the thought that the very foundation of their family is crumbling and giving way, and they are powerless to do anything about it. Imagine that child hearing their father and mother hating on each other, and then trying to fall asleep with those voices in their head. Imagine a child being expected to choose their dad over their mom, or their mom over their dad, when all they want most of all is for mom and dad to love one another. Imagine the child feeling they are responsible for their parents problems. Imagine the child beginning to act out to get some love, from anyone, anywhere.

It's sad, because I have never met a marriage that could not have done otherwise.

I am currently writing Leading the Presence-Driven Church, and How God Changes the Human Heart (A Phenomenology of Spiritual Transformation).

My recent book is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.