Tuesday, October 16, 2007

More Oprah on divorce

Last Thursday's Oprah was a follow-up to the show from a week earlier on children of divorce.

The show opened with a mom of four girls whose heart had been touched by little Kris in the earlier episode, the young boy featured in the first segment. (Of course, the mom whose heart I really hoped would be touched by Kris's tears was his own; hopefully she saw the show and felt the weight of her little one's broken heart.) After viewing a video of Mom and then watching Gary Neuman interviewing the girls, almost the first question posed back in the studio was "OK, so what is Mom doing wrong?"

Can Mom improve? Sure. But I don't think that was the point. I think, once again, that the implication was that the girls would not be feeling so much pain over the divorce if Mom weren't making such a mess of things. And yet, once again, in this situation it was the noncustodial parent's rejection and indifference that was breaking the children's hearts.

You can read about the episode here. If you click through all the way to the end, you can even watch a Q&A session that Neuman held with the studio audience. In that session, he stated unequivocally that he does not believe divorce itself is traumatic to children, but that the isolation children feel afterward (because they are not allowed to express their emotions) is what causes the trauma.

And yet, the stories heard during these two episodes of how children react to the news of divorce would state otherwise. If the divorce itself were not traumatic, why would children cry, run to their rooms, and put up emotional walls at the news if this were not a traumatic event in the life of their family? It simply doesn't make sense. If the trauma correlated to how things were handled later, then these telling reactions shouldn't happen until later. Certainly the family dynamics post-divorce and the relationship between parent and child can soften and soothe this pain or exacerbate it, as the case may be; but let's not confuse that with the root issue.

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