Divorce at Graduation
Parenting: Announcing your Divorce at Graduation Is Not Healthy for your Children
Graduation symbolizes an independence for most students, but it may also be true for their parents.Parents who stay married for the sake of their children may see graduation as the prime time to get a divorce. But announcing your divorce at your child’s high school graduation may not be healthy for your children, said Robert Emery, Ph.D., professor of psychology, and director of the Center for Children, Families, and the Law, at the University of Virginia.
I’ve heard from different young people about this happening to them,” Emery said. I think that it may be a good idea for parents to stay together when the parting might be less disruptive to their children’s lives. And an obvious point of tact “this is not the time.”
“Parents of graduates may be trying to do the right thing,” Emery said, “by attempting to protect their children from the difficulties of divorce. They may be trying to help their children grow up in a healthy environment. But choosing graduation as the time to announce a divorce is not the healthiest choice. For parents in this situation, I think it is attempting to take kids’ needs into account and wait until a better time in their lives to tell them. Some parents wait until summer.”
“Graduation is an exciting rite of passage for young people, a time to celebrate their accomplishments. To introduce the idea of divorce during graduation takes away from the celebration,” Emery said. He recommends parents wait for the graduation season to end before announcing their separation. “Wait beyond graduation. Let this be a time for the child, Emery said. Don’t diminish that experience for them by injecting your own problems.”
PLAN AHEADIF STAYING TOGETHER FOR KIDS
“Parents who consider staying together until their children are finished with school need to map out the process,” said
Dr. Jay Granat, a psychotherapist from New Jersey. He said the couple needs to evaluate the pros and cons.
“Then, it becomes all about the timing,” Granat said. “If parents decide graduation is the finish line for their marriages, then tell the children when they are still home for the summer. It will give them at least three months to get used to the idea before they go to college. Telling the kids when they are at school and adjusting to freshman year, that’s a bit much,” Granat said.
“This situation is nothing new for families. There are many couples who develop a hidden plan between them to hold off on their break up until the kids finish school and move out of the house. It definitely does happen. The statistics have definitely born that out,” Granat said. “They wait until the house is empty.”
STAY TOGETHER BEYOND GRADUATION
“Waiting for the empty nest is a symptom of the broad idea among divorcing parents, of trying to make the marriage workable for the sake of the children,” said Amelio D’Onofrio, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist from New York City, and clinical professor and director of the Psychological Services Institute in the Graduate School of Education at Fordham University. “But deciding to end the relationship at the soonest possible moment at the end of that stretch, such as graduation time, might not be the best idea,” he said.
“It speaks to the larger issue of parents who decided to stay together for their children and waiting for the appropriate time for their children, although it sort of has a hostile intent to it, in putting the child in the middle,” D’Onofrio said.
“Even though parents are trying to save their children from the hard feelings of divorce, D’Onofrio said, separating at graduation time can still be disruptive to families in very serious ways. Although the children are older, and the moment may seem opportune to parents, it is still unsettling to the children,” he said.
“Graduation should be a time of pride and praise for children, making it a less opportune time to disrupt the family dynamic, D’Onofrio said. To introduce it at the point seems to take away from the child,” D’Onofrio said.
Michele Bush Kimball has a Ph.D. in mass communication with a specialization in media law. She has spent almost 15 years in the field of journalism, and she has taught journalism at American University in Washington, D.C. She recently won a national research award for her work.She regularly writes stories for divorce360.