Collateral Damage: Guiding And Protecting Your Child Through The Minefield Of Divorce, by Dr. John T. Chirban
I did not participate in Dr. Chirban’s divorce survey promoted through the Dr. Phil show, but in reading this book I found the findings of that survey (which are discussed at least generally in the book’s appendix) closely mirrored my own experiences. As the child of parents who engaged in a particularly disastrous divorce, a lot of this book painfully rang true for me. As someone who has been the friend to many people who have either been in divorces themselves or who come from homes as broken as my own, reading this book was a somewhat painful and unpleasant experience for me, and likely will be for others as well. That said, this is a very worthwhile book, and sometimes there are painful and unpleasant experiences that one goes through in order to gain insight into the truths of one’s existence , and that was certainly the case for me here. The goal of this book is to encourage parents to actually think and act in the best interests of their children during divorce, whether they have sought the divorce themselves or whether it has been forced on them despite their desire to preserve their marriage. Most parents don’t actually think very much about their children when getting divorces–I know mine didn’t do a very good job at it–and this book makes it clear that there are consequences for this failure. Divorce itself is an admission of failure of the most painful kind; the least one can do is try to fail as well as one can.
In about 200 pages, the author, himself a divorced parent of three children whom he praises often in these pages, discusses some unpleasant but important truths when it comes to divorce and children. The book begins with introductory material that includes a foreword from Dr. Phil. The first part of the book consists on four chapters that discuss protecting children through being attuned to them, managing one’s own emotions, sustaining your parental role, and providing stability through nurturing. The second part of the book shows the author counseling parents on how to navigate through divorce, instructing them on how to regain control and reclaim themselves, how to realign relationships, how to redefine parenting, how to retain parenthood in a blended family, and how to preserve loving relationships. A closing chapter discusses the importance of having a healthy spiritual life as well as notes about the divorce study. I would have liked to have participated in it, but my results would have been pretty much in line with other children of divorce.
It is worthwhile to take a look at some of those grim statistics, so that we are aware of what we are dealing with when we examine a problem like divorce. There is a wide disconnect between the way parents and children look at divorces. Divorced parents, by and large, feel that they were equipped to deal with children’s needs during divorce (55% yes to 45% no), but admitted that the children themselves did not have a voice in the decision to divorce (88% no to 12% yes), and even felt that they adequately discussed children’s feelings during divorce by a narrow margin (51% yes to 49% no). Children, not surprisingly, were far less complementary to the sensitivity of their parents, claiming often to have been caught in the middle of the parents’ divorce (57% yes to 43% no), that parents did a particularly poor job of managing the impact of divorce for them (72% no to 28% yes), and that parents were not particularly helpful (with 57% parent claiming that parents did “nothing much” to help children). These results are pretty scathing and match with my own observation and my own experiences. This will likely not be a pleasant book for anyone to read, but it tells a story that needs to be told and encourages those people responsible for breaking up their families and homes to act the best towards their children. If people thought of others and considered others a little more, many of the mistakes made in marriages would likely be far easier to avoid and overcome.
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