My parents were divorced by the time I was eight years old and my sisters were five and seven. While the three of us were being raised, my mother never remarried. I came from a broken home.
“Broken home” was the phrase that I remember my second grade teacher saying once. It was whispered by the neighbor women over the fence and even preached by Pastor Kennedy from the pulpit describing the troubling times in which we lived.
What a horrible thing to call our home, our lives and our very existence. Sometimes I think that description hurt more than the divorce itself. Children shouldn’t have to live under the weight of such an unforgiving title, “broken home.” It meant that our world was less than whole, just pieces, leftover fragments and literally broken.
Of course there was plenty of loss and real grief for the changes that arrived when my parents separated. Our tender young hearts ached, but our home was still our home. It did not feel broken to me. We still had each other. It was just that our lives were arranged differently now. We were scuffed and bruised but we were certainly not crumpled in irretrievable ruins and shambles.
If everyone saw our home as broken, somehow we must have fixed it! And how did we “fix” our broken home? It was not because of a Cinderella tale; no fairy godmothers or princes. Unfortunately, our dad dropped out of the picture all together. That fact broke our hearts and quite nearly our home, too. It still leaves fissures in the walls of our lives. Daughters need their dads. Children need both their parents, if that is what they once had.
Our home wasn’t broken beyond repair, no matter what the preacher’s sermon implicated. With a little super glue and a tribe of supportive loving people, we put the Humpty Dumpty of divorce back together again.
We did find a way through the divorce. We found a way to make sure our home was still intact. Reparation came by way of a strong single mom, wonderful supportive grandparents and kindly friends who took us under their wings.
Divorce does not define a child or their happiness or the strength of their home. All the divorce statistics trying to pigeonhole the probably outcome of a child of divorce really don’t add up too much if the parents – divorced, separated or never married – put their children first and foremost in their lives surrounding them with consistency, positive communication, love and security.
One home, even if rented in two by divorce doesn’t have to be broken. Like an amoeba, it can create two whole, living and complete entities; two “un-broken” homes.
I would propose that divorce does not break homes nearly as much as the parental behavior after the separation. How a parent interacts with their coParent is the best indicator for how children will endure the transition they face with divorced or separating parents at their helm.
Kids whose parents work together to make child centered decisions across the board will feel the firmness of their foundation never fearing that their home will be rubble by morning. Whereas coParents who can not grow up, show up, play up and parent up can be assured it is as if their children live in fear of tsunamis, earthquakes and bombs dropping and dismantling their homes daily.
So how do you fix a broken home? You uncouple in great care. In a way that puts your child’s needs above anything else.
Author Judge Sherrill Ellsworth is the Chief Community Officer for coParenter.com, the sister site of KidsBeforeConflict.com. Ellsworth is the Past Presiding Judge of Riverside County, a Judicial Educator and former Family Law Judge. After almost 20 years on the bench, she has earned a reputation for being a straight-forward, no-nonsense, fair judicial officer. A broadly talented jurist and settlement expert, Ellsworth has effectively handled complex civil litigation cases, family law, felony criminal trials, probate and general trials throughout her almost 30 years of lawyering and judging. Ellsworth was one of the court’s most respected and admired bench officers, earning the trust and revere of her colleagues and the lawyers who appeared before her. In 2014 she was named the Lawyer of the year by the J.Rueben Clark Law Society Los Angeles Chapter. Also in 2014, for her Judicial leadership she was named as an Inductee to Western State University Hall of Fame. In 2013, Ellsworth was awarded the Douglas Weathers Judicial Leadership Award by the California Consumer Attorneys, as well as various awards for her judicial leadership both as Presiding Judge and for Family Law. In 1999, she was named the American Business Women’s Association Woman of the Year for Judicial Leadership. Judge Ellsworth was appointed vice-chair of the California Court Case Management System Justice Partner Advisory Committee in 2010. She was a member of the Strategic Evaluation Committee appointed by the Chief Justice and of the council’s Trial Court Budget Working Group, Trial Court Presiding Judges Advisory Committee, Family and Juvenile Law Advisory Committee, and Task Force on Self-Represented Litigants.