Wanna talk with you about The Lost Kids.
I am not talking about Miscarriages, or Abductions, or Runaways...
But I AM talking about the ones who have been so damaged by Adults that they may never fully recover.
Amazingly...The Lost Kids that I am referring to today are NOT categorically the ones who have survived Physical or Sexual abuse.
The Lost Kids that I am referring to today are NOT categorically the ones who have a Parent who has an Addiction Problem.
The Lost Kids I am referring Today are ones with Broken Hearts and Trust Issues because Mommy and Daddy Got Divorced.
YES I have seen kids from divorced families who are Happy and Highly Functional.
But they are Few.
And they are Far Between.
I know that raising a child in the presence of fighting and hatred isn't wonderful either
...and I know that parents are often torn between staying with a horrible person for the Sake of the kids
divorcing a horrible person for the Sake of the kids.
All I can tell you is that, in my 20 plus years of observing students in my classroom, the majority of the kids from divorced homes are Typically NOT Happy NOR are They Highly Functional.
Clearly there are Socio-Economic Status factors at play.
Clearly there are Support System factors at play.
But to quote one my students...
"Parents don't realize that divorce messes kids up for a long time."
Now before anybody starts clammering and throwing rocks at me over this issue of how divorce impacts kids...let me clarify a little bit.
1. I am not citing double-blind clinical studies here.
2. I am not citing statistics.
3. I am not a psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, or counselor.
4. I am simply offering insights based on what I have observed over a couple of decades of working with kids.
Clearly I am NOT an expert
on Divorce and its Impact on kids.
But I AM a High School Speech Teacher and as such, I listen to kids talk all the time.
I hear what they are Afraid to tell their parents
BUT will openly share with their Peers in a Speech Class.
And they talk all the time about how Divorce is Awful.
Did I just hear somebody muttering "Other than quoting one of your students, what evidence can you bring to the table to solidify your assertion that divorce messes kids up for a long time?"
Well...glad you asked.
Please keep reading.
There is a certain Visual Aid based Speech Project, called "My Life Chart" that my students build and present in class to their peers and to me.
It's a graph of the highs and lows of their lives.
We discuss positive and negative graphing, and then the students build the X/Y axis on which to graph SOME information about their lives.
I ask them to limit their graphs to 10 items.
They get to choose what they talk about, and are told that they do NOT have to discuss anything that is Deeply Personal.
Yet they do.
They tell about pregnancies.
They tell about about abortions.
They tell about going to jail.
They talk about their 13th, 15th, 16th, and 18th birthdays.
They talk about Family Reunions.
They tell about Drug and Gang involvement.
They tell about personal pain: car wrecks, broken bones, surgeries
But the MOST LIKELY TOPIC TO BE DISCUSSED IS THEIR PARENTS' DIVORCE.
Just so you know...This particular assignment gets wonderful reviews from Students AND Administrators.
The Kids get to talk without notes and speak based on the prompts on their visual aids.
They tell me that they LIKE this assignment.
The Administrators LIKE it too because it is a cross-curricular assignment that promotes higher level thinking.
Disclaimer: I did NOT come up with this on my own.
It is research-based (Rief 1992) and I have provided one of the samples used in that research for you guys to take a look at before we go any further with this discussion.
Sample of Visual Aid for a speech presentation called "MY LIFE CHART" (as used Under Data Camera)
oRief, L. (1992). Seeking Diversity. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
The Process for Building and Presenting this speech goes like this:
1. Each student in the class generates his/her own Visual Aid (X/Y Graph) about their own life events. (10 items)
2. During these presentations the lights in the classroom are dim so that the projection can be read on the screen.
3. The students speak openly and honestly and very freely about the good, the bad, the happy and the sad parts of their lives.
And time, after time, after time I hear the story of how Parents Divorced, and how Horrible it was to Endure, and how it Still hurts, and how they wish their Family was still a FAMILY.
Here's another observation that is most Salient for me...
Most of the time the divorce is the lowest point on their chart and it is then followed by a series of low events.
The charts that my students produce lead me to believe that for many of them, their parents divorce serves as the the LOWEST turning point in their lives and there is rarely a HIGH that counterbalances the depth of that LOW.
In Essence and in Layman's Terms...it appears to change their Happiness Threshold for a long time.
I guess it's a further sign of our times, that it is now very rare for me to have more than 5 students in a class of 30 who have both biological parents who are married to each other.
Did I just hear somebody say "So What?"
Here's your "So What?"!
Parents neither Can Mitigate, nor should they even Try to Mitigate every Negative Experience in their kids lives.
Emotionally Healthy Individuals MUST develop the ability to cope with the Highs & Lows of life.
But here's what Parents SHOULD try to Mitigate: If at all possible they should not make life altering decisions that will serve as a SOURCE of Pain and Misery for their Children for Years to Come.
I Understand That Sometimes Divorce is Warranted.
I don't like it.
But I understand it.
But Marriage Vows should never be treated like a pair of Disposable Gloves.
Quite Frankly, The next time you want to cheat on your spouse...the next time you want to cash in all of your marital chips...the next time you feel like taking your wedding ring off and hurling it into the abyss...I want you to visualize your sons and your daughters standing at the podium in the front of a classroom with tears in their eyes as they talk about how much YOU hurt them.
I want you to visualize those faces.
And I want you to contemplate the hearts that will be broken
...the hearts that will very likely have Trust Issues for a long long time because of YOUR actions.
I have seen so many of these Lost Kids that I too am a little heartsick.
And I wonder how they will ever learn to Trust again.
If you and your spouse have been tossing around
"The D Word", please remember that far too often Divorce is a Wound that Festers in a Child's Heart for Years and Years and Years.
It's possible that YOU may be eager and able to "move on" quickly after a divorce.
But it is also possible that your Children may see that Divorce as Deepest Level of Negativity
on the Life Chart of their Lives.