I recently read a great book by Andrew Root titled The Children of Divorce: The Loss of Family as Loss of Being.
The subtitle pretty much tells it all and the “all” I am referring to is the crux of the issue with divorce and children- divorce is an ontological issue for a child.
Divorce, no matter how “good” it is, no matter how “well” it is handled, and no matter how much “happier” the parents are now, ends up affecting the ontological understanding, the sense of Being, of the child.
Although divorces can be handled “well” in regards to such things as custody arrangements and how the parents get along, the fact remains that a portion of the child’s sense of self, as defined by place and position within the family of origin, is lost.
The child is now confronted with creating a different sense of self that must be constructed from the ending of the primary arrangement that originally created the child (union of mother and father). The forging of new self in relation to place and position within the family is not to be taken lightly.
For the child, the issue is not whether the parents still love him or her. The child may actually be quite secure in this. The issue is much greater. The issue becomes “Who am I?” as the child negotiates separation in the most physical and psychological forms- two homes, perhaps two sets of siblings, two ways of “being” in these two environments, two sets of expectations.
Reassurances of love and security do not rectify this sense of loss in the child. What does help is the acknowledgment of this loss and the parallel confusion with self and belonging. When these are not addressed, the child is placed in a position which far exceeds his or her ability to simply “be and belong”.