Today in the United States, approximately 40% of kids have divorced parents. Being a child of divorce is no picnic, either: one eigh-decade study of kids of divorce found that divorce kids died, on average, almost 5 years earlier than kids from intact homes, a stronger predictor of mortality than even the death of a parent.
While there are many causes of stress for kids after a divorce, frequently one major issue is switching houses. My parents divorced when I was 11 and one of the hardest parts has been the weekly trauma of walking from one parents’ house to the other, reminded over and over again that neither (or both? or just one? but which one?) is home. This pain is almost impossible to imagine for those who don’t have divorced parents, but divorce kids the world over recognize the loneliness and isolation that come from not having one safe place to put down roots.
For two kids in Canada, however, that isolation is lifting due to one pair of divorced parents. Edmonton parents Monica McGrath and Kent Kirkland, parents of Sean (10) and Audrey (8) divorced four years ago. After trying to make it work in separate houses, Monica had an idea – what if they made a house that worked for both of them? Luckily for her (and for Audrey and Sean), Kent is the owner of a home construction business.
So, Monica approached her ex with a wild idea: two houses, one for each of them, connected by their children. Kent, after talking to the city to make sure building codes worked out, built the “transformer,” a duplex connected in the middle by a small hallway which has rooms for their children. The hallway has two doors, each leading to one parents’ house, and depending on the week one is opened and the other closed. This setup works well for the kids, who don’t have to worry about switching houses; now they each have their own room, no matter which parent they’re with.
This living situation might seem odd to many divorced parents, but Kent and Monica promise that it’s not as hard as it looks; in fact, Monica states that, many weeks, the parents don’t see each other for days at a time. Additionally, the financial burden on the parents is lower when sharing a home. The most important thing about the new arrangement, however, is that the children like it. According to Monica, they’ll say, “Mum we like living in one spot. We like having our things in one place. We like the house.”
Despite what parents tell us, every kid of divorce knows that it’s not about us, and that parents are far more concerned with their own issues than with making things easy for us. More people would do well to take a page from Monica and Kent, and put their children first after a divorce.
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