Why College Freshmen Struggle with the News of Divorce More Strongly than Many Other Age Groups
There’s no denying that divorce is difficult on children of any age. Many parents stay together until their kids have graduated high school, to ensure stability for their children as they develop emotionally and physically. There’s never an easy time to tell your children that you and your spouse are getting a divorce, but some moments are less ideal than others. Education and parenting writer Jackie Burrell discusses a surprising trend and explains why parents should not break the news of divorce to their kids the moment they leave the house for college.
Every year, college health clinics and deans’ offices fill with tearful freshmen who’ve just embarked on one of the most exciting and stressful experiences of their lives. They’ve left their families, moved into a dorm filled with strangers, and every single thing in their lives, save for the teddy bear sprawled on the bed, is new. And now, they’ve just discovered their parents, who had stayed together for the sake of the children, are splitting up.
Some college deans even make a point of asking parents at college orientation sessions to hold it together for at least a few weeks after their kids move out. One campus official at the University of Redlands was downright blunt: “You’ve managed it for 18 years,” he told parents. “Would another couple of months kill you?”
Family therapist Steven Freemire laughs when he hears that story, but he agrees. In many ways, college freshmen are like the toddler who takes his first steps across the room, then looks back for reassurance, to make sure mom and dad are still there. Your child may be living the college life, but he needs the security of knowing he still has a home base. “It is a fallacy,” the Walnut Creek, CA psychologist says, “to think they’re launched.”
Freemire applauds couples who stay together in order to provide structure and stability for their families – and, he says, spouses who care for one another and nurture their marriages through those hectic years of child rearing often compare the empty nest years to a renewed honeymoon.