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wundayatta's avatar

What is the age where children have the easiest time when their parents divorce?

Asked by wundayatta (58367 points ) April 13th, 2010

First of all, this is not about me. I have had troubles in my marriage, but we are not looking at divorce right now.

My therapist suggested that she thought the best time was when kids were sophomores or juniors in high school or college. A lot of people wait until a child has just graduated high school to do it, but she said that was very damaging, because they are in transition from one stage of life to another. That’s hard enough without the parents divorcing. So, senior and freshman years are bad.

What are the considerations that you think are important when considering when to divorce (with or without kids)? What age should children be in order for them to have the least hard time dealing with their parents separation? If you are a child of divorced parents, how old were you when it happened, and how did it affect you? Do you think it would have been any easier if you were a different age?

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29 Answers

TheLoneMonk's avatar

Oh about the age of never.

Ludy's avatar

nunca

dpworkin's avatar

The older the better, in general, although people sometimes experience a lot of anger from teenagers, especially if there is a new spouse or SO involved.

netgrrl's avatar

All I can offer is my own experience. Mine were 18, 14 & 10. They all hard a hard time in their own way. My oldest probably understood best, bc she was old enough to see the relationship between her parents was, at best, joyless. My 14 yr old son was angry, not sure at who, just angry. My 10 yr old daughter has never let me forget we told them we were splitting up a week after her birthday—like there would have been a good time at any point.

phillis's avatar

Kids are programmed to blame themselves. After they’ve reached emotional independence from thier parents. Or either before they are old enough to remember and fully absorb anger and angry voices.

OneMoreMinute's avatar

I think 40 is a good age for them to handle their parents divorce.

but seriously, I was 7 and 14 when my folks divorced. (they remarried each other again when I was 11.)

It was hard on me both times. I wish they would have waited until I turned 40.

netgrrl's avatar

There never is a good time, bottom line. But staying together for the sake of the children is not a good solution either. Better 2 happy parents separately than 2 miserable ones together.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

Once they’re out of college.

I was 12 when my parents divorced. My father left my mother for his high school girlfriend, and divorced me and my sister, too. My mother sort of flipped out. We never had any money, because my father couldn’t afford to pay for his life, and pay support for us too. My mom would make us ask him for the child support. I worked 3 jobs to put myself through college.

Any attachment I had to my parents pretty much left, because I realized that I didn’t matter; the only thing that mattered to them was how they felt. I was expected to be happy because my father was happy, and angry with my father because my mother was angry. Really, all I wanted was for someone to do things with me again, and for my dad to help me with my homework without having to make an appointment to see him, and for there to be enough money to pay the bills and put food on the table. I wanted Christmas with all my relatives together, and family vacations, and to not have to think about my parent’s sex life or marital problems.

MissAnthrope's avatar

I don’t think it’s ever easy, especially when they are at an age of never having experienced the complexity of adult relationships. I was a year old when my parents divorced and it was not easy at all. I felt torn between them, I moved back and forth (different states) every year or two because I couldn’t handle being apart from them for too long.. it tore me up as a kid, though indirectly all the moving and going to new schools constantly made me very adaptable.

judyprays's avatar

I was 5 when my parents divorced and it either wasn’t that big of a deal or is so hugely supressed that I don’t know about it. They went out of their way to make it easy on me and… I think it was not so bad. If it happened when I was in college – I probably would have been incredibly judgemental and had a lot of opinions.

Either way – it seems it might be more about how one handles it than when it happens. Elizabeth Gilbert in “Committed” says, “When sociologists say that ‘marriage is good for children’ what they mean is that stability is good for children. It has been categorically proven that children thrive in environments where they are not subjected to constant unsettling emotional changes. ” So if not divorcing means a house of tension, probably better to do it sooner.

netgrrl's avatar

@judyprays Love the Gilbert quote – so true!

CaptainHarley's avatar

There is no age at which the divorce of parents is not deeply felt by their children.

talljasperman's avatar

I was 2… I think people who are going to get divorced should be screened better before they get married…they do a little now…

SuperMouse's avatar

I have a friend who experienced his parent’s divorce right after he graduated from high school. It impacted him as much as it did my friends whose parents were divorced when they were younger. There is probably never a good time. My kids are 11, 10, and 7, and all three are very challenged by our divorce, each in their own way.

SeventhSense's avatar

My parents divorced when I was 10. A schism was created in my psyche which was never repaired.

netgrrl's avatar

I’ll probably get slammed for this, but I don’t really mean it to be harsh. The best thing we can say about our childhood is that it is over. The statute of limitations on parental abuses & mistakes should run out when we’re about 30. After that, if we haven’t gotten over & past it, it’s no one’s fault but our own. Do what you gotta do, however you gotta do it, but move on.

OneMoreMinute's avatar

@netgrrl I love that last one!

Rangie's avatar

It is not what age the children are, it’s how you keep their enviroment without much change. Absolutely no pitting kids against either parent. My children were 5 and 2. And the only thing they noticed was daddy didn’t sleep at our house at night. But he was there a lot, supporting them and me. We have remained good friends to this day. My second husband of 30 years is friends with him and vise versa. I can honestly say, we have had no dissension what so ever. My children have told me they don’t really feel like children of divorced parents. They are 45 and 48 now. So it’s not the age, it is essential that the parents grow up for the children’s sake. It is not about you anymore!!!

SeventhSense's avatar

@netgrrl
No blame but it is what it is.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

it is essential that the parents grow up for the children’s sake.

This is so true, and is probably the key to a successful divorced family.

A coworker’s wife took a job out-of-town, about a 7 hour drive away. Every weekend, he puts a 5 year old and and 8 year old on a plane by themselves so they can go visit their mother. That’s nuts. He has custody because his family is in town, and he has a support network the mother doesn’t have in a new city. The kids miss all the family parties, birthday parties at school, etc. Meanwhile, the mom gets the kids on the weekends, and often gets a sitter so she can go out on the weekend while the kids are there, because she wants their life to be “normal.”

phillis's avatar

@PandoraBoxx Wow. Just…..wow. Hopefully, the kids will grow up better people than their parents. Geez. When I had my girls I was overjoyed! I felt that they were gifts straight from heaven. I don’t even use babysitters. The difference in attitude is amazing. Wow.

thriftymaid's avatar

the younger the better

Response moderated
phillis's avatar

—@Cooldil17 Uhh…..the author specifically told us in the details that it isn’t about him. It was a query. You know – something you wonder about if you aren’t a child therapist.

jazmina88's avatar

I was in college when my mom divorced…my second step father. and it should have happened long before. If you are both PARENTS, then it is hard to break up the family, but it’s a put together family, it’s already expected.

jeanmay's avatar

My parents divorced when I was seven, my brother five and my sister nine. I’m not sure they really considered what would be a ‘good age’ for us kids, it was just the end of the marriage and there was no other way forward.

At the time I was bitterly angry, particularly at my mum as she had been the instigator. I was too young and self-involved to stop and think what life might have been like for her. I remember when I stayed at her new house, I would scream and cry, and say that I wanted to go to my real home.

Growing up I always felt that I was somehow entitled to be a ‘damaged’ person, as my parents had done this awful thing to me. Looking back I know now how hard it must have been for my parents, and how much they worked at keep us living close and giving us equal time with each one of them. Relations between them were not great, but they made it so it didn’t really matter.

Of all of us, I think it was by far harder on my parents than it was on any of us. My father had to readjust his whole identity, and my mum had to live with the guilt of dividing the family. Children grow and change and are resilient. I for one, let go of my anger and regret a long time ago.

filmfann's avatar

the best time for the kids? Early. Like before they turn 3. My grandson had to deal with his parents splitting up at that age, and he got stressed, but nothing like kids do when they are older.
15–16 sounds like one of the worst times. This is when they begin exploring relationships, and you can drive them towards terrible choices while they are escaping the misery at home.
25 and up, when they aren’t kids anymore, is probably the best.

rooeytoo's avatar

I don’t think it is easy at any age. But I do believe it is worse for children to grow up with parents who don’t love each other as a model for their future relationships than to have to deal with the divorce.

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