When I was 4 or 5, or somewhere around there, my parents split up on decidedly less-than-friendly terms. I was predictably miserable, resentful of them remarrying, resentful of the constant shuffle between houses, sick of the badmouthing; you know, all of that great divorce stuff. Looking back, I see that it led to my suffering serious depression: spontaneously crying for no reason, wanting to die, etc. Rough stuff for an 8-year-old to deal with, and largely suffered in silence. Thankfully, I have made a more-or-less complete recovered, but, to this day, it is still the worst thing to happen to me. I say this not to complain, but by way of preface.
I'm coming up on 18 years working for a division of the Psychology Department at ASU called the REACH Institute. We've done several studies with families who have had tragedy like the death of a parent or parental divorce. These studies lead to the development and now dissemination of various programs for families in crisis to go through after these experiences. The main goal has always been to prevent children from obtaining the psychological scarring you've outlined here. I'm sorry to hear you had to go through that, but I wanted to let you know that there are people out there trying to keep this from happening to future generations.
It's one of the things I have always liked about my job. I am part of a team that actively works to help people, especially children dealing with more than a child should have to deal with. Better than working for a bank or something where they steal your money for a living.
It actually sounds good to hear you call it "psychological scarring." Validating. I feel like the message in the '90s (media, PSAs, etc.) was largely, "Hey, it'll be okay. You'll get used to it. Maybe it's better this way." In the last couple years, I've come across accounts/testimonials from other (now adult) children of divorce who gave the opposite message, put into words a lot of the frustrations that I wasn't allowed to feel or express back in the day. Just the frank openness about it was some kind of relief.
Honestly, my biggest concern in my mom's situation is, What do I tell the kids? It won't be quite as jarring as I had it, since it's not their parents, and Claire and I will always be together, but I'm not eager to introduce even the concept of divorce to my kids. The two oldest have spent time at my mom's house and know and like my step-dad. That I let them get close to him and treat him like a grandparent feels like a pretty big step for me, and adds to the bitter feelings at how this turned out. Mostly, I'm worried about Percy, who is 6. My daughter is 3.5 and is probably too young to know or care about what's going on, and the baby obviously won't have to deal with it. But Percy is overly sensitive as it is, and he's old enough to ask questions and worry about things. Really, I don't think that I'd be half as upset about the whole situation if we didn't have the kids.
Anyway, John, keep up the good work. Many thanks to you and yours for trying to do what you do.
Sam, the Neon Orange Knight