Focus on the Family with Dr. James Dobson
DR. DOBSON: Yes, I disagree, although the disorder has become faddish and tends to be overdiagnosed. But when a child actually has this problem, I assure you that his or her parents and teachers don’t have to be convinced.
QUESTION: My marriage to my husband has been a very unsatisfying thing for me. I would divorce him if it were not for my concern for our three children. What does the research say about the impact of divorce on kids?
DR. DOBSON: It’s now known that emotional development in children is directly related to the presence of warm, nurturing, sustained and continuous interaction with both parents. Anything that interferes with the vital relationship with either mother or father can have lasting consequences for the child.
One landmark study revealed that 90 percent of children from divorced homes suffered from an acute sense of shock when the separation occurred, including profound grieving and irrational fears. Fifty percent reported feeling rejected and abandoned, and indeed, half of the fathers never came to see their children three years after the divorce. Onethird of the boys and girls feared abandonment by the remaining parent, and 66 percent experienced yearning for the absent parent with an intensity that researchers described as overwhelming. Most significant, 37 percent of the children were even more unhappy and dissatisfied five years after the divorce than they had been at 18 months. In other words, time did not heal their wounds.
That’s the real meaning of divorce. It is certainly what I think about, with righteous indignation, when I see infidelity and marital deceit portrayed on television as some kind of exciting game for two.
The bottom line is that you are right to consider the welfare of your children in deciding whether or not to seek a divorce. As empty as the marital relationship continues to be for you, it is likely, from what I know of your circumstances, that your kids will fare better if you choose to stick it out.
QUESTION: My children are still in elementary school, and I want to avoid adolescent rebellion in the future if I can. What can you tell me to help me get ready for this scary time?
DR. DOBSON: I can understand why you look toward the adolescent years with some apprehension. This is a tough time to raise kids. Many youngsters sail right through that period with no unusual stresses and problems, but others get caught in a pattern of rebellion that disrupts families and scares their moms and dads to death. I’ve spent several decades trying to understand that phenomenon and how to prevent it. The encouraging thing is that the most rebellious teens usually grow up to be responsible and stable adults who can’t remember why they were so angry in earlier days.
I once devoted a radio program to a panel of formerly rebellious teens that included three successful ministers, Rev. Raul Ries, Pastor Mike MacIntosh, and Rev. Franklin Graham, son of Dr. Billy and Ruth Graham. Each of them had been a difficult adolescent who gave his parents fits. With the exception of Raul, who had been abused at home, the other two couldn’t recall what motivated their misbehavior or why they didn’t just go along and get along. That is often the way with adolescence. It’s like a tornado that drops unexpectedly out of a dark sky, tyrannizes a family, shakes up the community, and then blows on by. Then the sun comes out and spreads its warmth again.
Even though the teen years can be challenging, they’re also filled with excitement and growth. Rather than fearing that experience, therefore, I think you ought to anticipate it as a dynamic time when your kids transition from childhood to full-fledged adulthood.
Dr. Dobson is founder and Chairman Emeritus of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, Colo. 80995 (www.focusonthefamily.org). Questions and answers are excerpted from “Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide” and “Bringing Up Boys,” both published by Tyndale House.