The impact of divorce on children

FRIDAY, February 3, 2017: Last weekend was spent in Ndola. I was at the home of a couple — the Bandas — who have become new acquaintances. They are a truly wonderful couple and they were very open with me. They told me that the husband was a divorcee.
What brought this discussion about was the fact that on Friday they went to collect their three children and then on Sunday the mother of the two children came to collect them. The divorce court imposed that process on them and they were simply obeying.
I enjoyed the weekend with the children. They are very well nurtured, though every so often I noticed that they struggled to relate to their father’s new wife who had no children of her own.
So, when the kids were gone the Bandas explained to me the historical background.
To begin with I was very impressed with the fact that Mr
Banda did not try to paint his ex-wife black when sharing with me how that marriage failed. He was very protective of his ex-wife’s character, though I have subsequently learnt that she was a cause of the divorce.
The Bandas spent more time sharing with me the effect and impact of the divorce on the children. For the first few years,
Mr Banda remained unmarried and so handled that impact alone.
The new wife shared about the impact she has seen since joining him.
Mr Banda explained to me that the first impact of the divorce that he saw in the lives of the children is best described as “denial”.
It was very evident that the children were trying to convince themselves that their father had simply gone away on holiday.
When it became obvious that their father was not coming back, the children began to exhibit feelings of being abandoned.
They felt as if their father did not care about them and simply forsook and deserted them for another life somewhere else.
It was not long before Mr Banda noticed that his children were always angry with him, especially the older two children.
They wanted to enjoy both parents and did not want to be known as children of divorced parents. So they let out their anger on him.
Another phase that the children went through was that of judge and jury. They wanted to know who caused the split up of their parents. They were constantly asking Mr Banda very searching questions. He was sure they were also asking their mother the same questions.
Mr Banda said that he could not answer their questions without betraying his ex-wife. Besides he was not there to know what his wife was telling them. So, it was going to be his word against hers.
He preferred to take the blame and leave things that way.
The children also went through a time of depression and began to do very badly in school. Mr Banda asked one of his church elders to interview them because they had become very closed to him. When he would ask them, they would say nothing to him.
The church elder got back to him afterwards and told him that the children were blaming themselves for not doing enough to prevent their parents from divorcing. They were thinking that if they had been more vigilant they would have prevented the divorce.
The most difficult phase the children went through was when they heard that their father was about to re-marry. They realised that their hopes for their parents getting together again would be dashed. So, they did everything in their power to prevent this.
Mr Banda said that his children were very rude to his new wife whenever they came home and found her visiting in their courtship days. They initially accused her of causing the divorce despite him telling them that he did not even know she existed at that time.
“My wife is very mature,” Mr Banda said. “She handled their negative attitude with genuine Christian love until she won them over. There were times when she almost gave up. My greatest regret concerning my divorce is the impact it has had on my children.”
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