Don't stay together 'for the children'

April 09, 1991|By Gerri Kobren

Should parents stay together for the sake of the children?

"It is never better for parents to stay married if they really can't work out the difficulties," answers psychologist Neil Kalter, director of the Center for the Child and Family at the University of Michigan.

"I think parents ought to do whatever they can to resolve the conflict; divorce should not be the first option. But to agree to have a modified, distant, loveless marriage is not so good either."

Judith Wallerstein, executive director of the Center for the Family in Transition in California, agrees: "Divorce is serious, not something you should do impulsively, just because you lose your temper. But if there are serious issues they have confronted and cannot resolve, they should divorce. I don't think martyrdom -- staying wretchedly yoked together -- is a good example for anyone."

But it's not fair to spring the unyoking on the children, Dr. Wallerstein says; kids should be told ahead of time that the parents have problems they have not been able to solve, that they thought they would love each other forever, but now they find they are making each other unhappy.

"I think they also have to make clear parents divorce each other, but never divorce their children," she says. "They have to tell them what plans are being made to keep up the parent-child relationship in the future. They have to give the child permission to love both parents, not be on one side or the other. They have to say they will protect the child, and they have to mean it; they have to set up plans to do it."

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