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Divorce, Suicide and Other Thoughts to Start the Day

Posted in: Blog by admin on January 27, 2011

I woke up this morning to The Today’s Show teaser-before-commercial: “Children of divorce are more likely to attempt suicide.”  That’s catchy.  Scary.  Disturbing.  I couldn’t wait for the commercial break to end.  There was Matt Lauer, apparently full of concern as he asked experts about a recent study that suggests that boys whose parents are divorced are three times more likely to consider suicide.  The psychiatrist being questioned about this study explained that when kids don’t have a father around or when parents disconnect from their children, there can be devastating consequences.  He said it’s so important that parents remember they are divorcing each other, not their children.  Lauer said that while 50 percent of marriages end in divorce, this is some news that should get people thinking before they untie the knot.

But is this study really the way they sensationalized it to sound? Are kids of divorce really more likely to commit suicide?  Or are kids in unhappy homes more likely? Kids whose fathers check out, move away, and stop supporting the family?  Kids whose mothers have less income, more stress and more bitterness?  Kids whose parents talk negatively about one another as they split with disrespect, hatred and anger?  Of course, this study and the way in which it was simply presented are dangerous and, to be honest, silly.  There are so many factors that contribute to a child’s sense of helplessness, and to simply state that “divorce” is one of them seems dangerous to me.

The truth is, it’s really hard growing up today.  It’s, unfortunately, hard to even be an adult today.  There is so much pressure to succeed financially, to find the love of your life, to have a dream job, house and car.  We idolize success.  We have a skewed sense of reality.  We obsess over perfect bodies, forever youth, fame and fortune.  We are disconnected from each other.  We are connected to devices.  We are selfish and greedy.  We are hurting our environment and each other.  We are running.  We aren’t sleeping.  We are eating fast food, and we are suing each other when we learn that our 89-cent-fast-food taco isn’t actually comprised of as much meat as we wisely thought!

We are messed up.  And, we are raising some messed-up kids.  But, they’re not suicidal simply because mom and dad are signing divorce papers.  They’re suicidal because life is tougher than many wanted to believe.  They’re suicidal because there aren’t safe, peaceful homes in which they can reside.  They’re suicidal because we paint an unobtainable picture of perfection and success.  They’re suicidal because people can be mean and cruel and selfish and cold.  They’re suicidal because we’re surrounded by ignorance and mass delusions.

And, yes, I sound angry, maybe even defensive.  Could I be a product of divorce? Could I even be a mother who subjected her children to the same fate?  Of course.  It’s clear to see.  But, that is not what angered me — it was not just this sense of feeling attacked for a decision I carefully made.  It upset me to hear a study sensationalized so, with so much carelessness.  I suppose that the people who promoted and highlighted this story may get people to step back and re-consider a serious decision like divorce as they become more aware of possible deadly consequences.  That’s it — scare people into staying unhappily together!

We need to talk more.  We need to think more.  We need to realize that every action has a series of domino-type reactions.  I am all for awareness.  And I am all for considering ramifications and consequences for decisions we may make.  I’m just NOT for waking up and hearing that my son has a three times greater risk of committing suicide simply because I signed divorce papers.  It’s not that simple. And, I think it’s reckless to portray it that way.

My ex-husband is one of my best friends.  We talk several times a day, and we are committed to helping one another and being part of a team.  Our kids see the love and respect and thought and care that surrounds us.  Surely, that is a unique component of our situation.  There are homes with married parents who are fighting and arguing and disrespecting one another daily.  I can imagine how those kids feel as they’re tucked safely in their beds at night.  Surely their parents can breathe easier tonight knowing that their little ones are less likely to contemplate suicide.

Without a doubt, the best scenario is for kids to have two loving parents who are together.  It’s easier.  It feels safer.  It’s a family unit.  There’s nothing like that.  But, if that’s not the case — if parents can’t make their marriages work — then kids still need to feel a sense of safety.  They need to feel loved.  They need to see respect and thoughtfulness and joy.  They need to see their parents happy.  They need to grow up surrounded by peacefulness and authenticity and freedom.

Let’s not over-dramatize divorce and put this notion in our heads that this ugly decision can lead to the most ugly consequences.  Let’s instead re-open the discussion about how our happiness can impact that of our children.  Let’s talk about raising kids who are connected to each other, who learn about altruism, who believe in goodness, who strive to make the world better.  Let’s open our eyes and our hearts to what is important in our homes, our communities and our world.

Be peaceful and true, and watch your offspring follow.  Be kind and respectful.  Be aware and present.  Be honest and authentic.  Make the moments count.  Make life count.  And, make your children count.  I’ve said it before and I’ll certainly say it countless times again:  Children need to see happy parents, not necessarily parents who are living with one another.  So, let’s be happy.  Let’s ooze with goodness.  Let’s be selfless and thoughtful and caring and patient and kind.  Let’s listen to our children with open hearts and minds.  And, let’s see what that does to suicide rates around the world.

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4 Responses to “Divorce, Suicide and Other Thoughts to Start the Day”

  1. karyn bravo says:

    You make some great points Amy!

  2. Sue love says:

    This is your best work yet. You are so insightful. I only wish that the entire world could read this. You should submit this to the today show in reference to yesterday’s segment. It is brilliant! Love u!!

  3. Jill Cohen says:

    Well put, Amy!

  4. joey says:

    parents that stay married “for the kids” are doing it for themselves.

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