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Why staying together for your kids can harm them

One of the biggest struggles for parents in unhappy marriages is determining whether it's healthier for their children if they stay together or go their separate ways.

Decades ago, couples often felt pressured to stay together "for the sake of the children." However, today, therapists and other experts on children and divorce discourage that kind of thinking. People considering divorce who still feel the pain of growing up with parents who stayed together for them may be determined not to make the same mistake.

Let's look at some of the ways that kids can be emotionally and psychologically harmed -- not just in the short term, but for the rest of their lives -- by being in the middle of a bad marriage:

-- Low self-esteem: Experts say that kids who grow up around tension, unhappiness and conflict are more likely to be less confident in themselves. They can become confused and even blame themselves for their parents' unhappiness. Kids absorb the negative emotions of their parents. This can lead them to grow up to have both self-esteem and trust issues.

-- An unhealthy model of relationships: If they see their parents settling for being in an unhappy marriage, they may be more likely to do that later on. It's hard to learn how to have a happy, healthy relationship if you don't grow up around one. They may end up modeling the negative behavior they see or give up on the prospect of having a happy relationship altogether.

-- Lack of time and attention from parents: When spouses are unhappy, they may avoid being at home -- working longer hours or staying out late socializing with friends. Even if they're home, they may disappear into their home office, craft room or garage or into alcohol or medication to avoid dealing with their spouse. By avoiding their spouse, they're also separating themselves from their kids. Many parents find themselves spending more and better quality time with their kids after they divorce.

Of course, if you make the decision to go your separate ways, how your and your spouse's behavior around your children throughout and after the divorce is also crucial. Seeing their parents work together amicably to establish a new family dynamic can be healthy for their own future relationships. Your family law attorney can help you work towards custody and visitation plan that are in your children's best interests.

Source: Huffington Post, "7 Ways You Can Damage Your Kids By Staying In A Bad Marriage," Brittany Wong, May 17, 2016

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