Beyond Split & Broken – Complex Instead

Divorce and child custody

Statistically, the effects of divorce on our society are difficult to prove although there are figures bandied around. What we do know, is that some people go on and have far better lives and some don’t. For the majority however, we can say divorce carved its mark on our life and we live with it for the rest of our days – for better or worse.

If our marriage born children into the world, the effects of this choice are certainly going to live on longer than just ourselves. Given our rather poor track record society-wide when it comes to dealing with these sort of relationships issues and family breakdowns, we need to find an answer to this very normal and large problem.

Our children are innocent. As parents we know this to be true and yet we often rely upon childhood resilience to be a comfort that our children will survive the fall out. While children are often resilient, it is not a sufficient strategy to raise well adjusted adults. A particularly pertinent question: if kids adjust, why are there so many dysfunctional adults? The simple answer is most don’t. Instead our children modify behaviour, change expectations, absorb patterns, shut down, and become resigned to situations that are beyond their ability to solve. It could be better said, children get used to it, reconcile, alter, and rearrange; this is far from coming to terms with it. While outwardly they may appear to adjust, perhaps inwardly it would be more accurate to say they cope: that’s a strategy that underlies personal survival.

So while we relish in supporting our children to adjust, we do this by leading them to gain the tools and knowledge that is needed for this adjustment to happen in a healthy manner. One way we do this is a shift from what has become normal.

The most common terms used to describe a family that has been touched by separation, divorce or some form of family breakdown is Broken Home or Split Family. While this is traditionally very accurate, if it leaves our children believing that something needs to be fixed, put back together or made whole … we need to change this.

It is not necessary for our homes to be broken, nor for our families to be split any longer. Mother and father may not live together and indeed our family structure altered, but there can be greater harmony when co-parenting is done well, including much loved stepparents.

To move beyond the Broken Home or Split Family paradigm we need to change terminology and give our children another phrase to describe their new family structure. A term that is free of judgement; neither good nor bad, advantaged nor disadvantaged, split nor whole, broken nor together, right nor wrong – it only describes what is. This new term is a Complex Family. It’s when our family portrait no longer sits comfortably within a traditional photo frame.

Despite all our differences, most will agree that since separation life is a tad more complex. Relationships, schedules, discipline, expectations, holidays, pets, schooling … you name it; it’s no longer simple.

To lift the grey cloud that subtly influences our children, who are innocently trapped within an adult drama, we remove any chance they may feel disadvantaged or handicapped by their parents decisions. It is true that many children believe they are partially responsible for their parents split – as inconceivable as it is to both the parting parents. To genuinely demonstrate a family environment where divorce is an event that occurred in its history, without acrimony for years to come, we need to give our children the best start to their own life journey as possible. Become a healthy Complex Family today.


Jill Darcey

Jill Darcey (author, parent, founder, and speaker) is a mother of three with thousands of hours of experience as a counsellor and coach, and more than a decade of real-time experience with "complex family" parenting --- parenting through separation, divorce or some other family breakdown. Jill is someone who has both vision and wisdom and has learned a lot of what does and doesn't work — and some of it the hard way!

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