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Parent Trap: Still Ruining Divorce For Everyone…

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3 Reasons the Parent Trap Ruined Divorce for Everyone

If you were a child in any decade between the 1950’s and today, it is likely you saw and loved the movie, The Parent Trap. Originally released by Disney in 1961, it was remade in 1998 ensuring generations of American children were exposed to it. The original source material, a 1949 German novel, has inspired nearly 20 movies in over a dozen languages and countries since it’s publication. As a result, millions of people all over the world are familiar with the story.

If you have somehow avoided the movie up until this point in your life, here is a brief summary. Two girls who look exactly alike meet for the first time at summer camp. They soon discover that they are identical twins separated at a young age by their parents divorce. Angry at their parents’ deception, they switch places. The twin living with the father then discovers that he is going to get remarried. She immediately enlists the help of the other twin to get their mother and father back together. Hilarity ensues and, in the end, the parents remarry.

The movie is of course a comedy and it’s premise would be very unlikely under modern child custody laws. Still there are some negative stereotypes about divorce that the movie reinforces. Here are three reasons why The Parent Trap ruined divorced for countless children.

Parents can’t share custody
In the movie, the parents make the extraordinary decision to each take custody of one child and cut all contact after the divorce. Each parent then does not see the other child for more than 10 years. While this makes for a great movie plot, it paints divorce in a very bad light. It supports the idea that divorce tears families apart, that at the end of a marriage a child must choose one parent over the other. In the real world, no parent is forced to leave their child behind after a divorce. The vast majority of divorced parents share custody of their children without issue. The doomsday custody scenario of The Parent Trap just doesn’t happen in real life.

Remarriage and step-parents are always bad
A large portion of The Parent Trap deals with the twins using every means available to stop their father from getting remarried. They set traps and perform humorous tricks on his fiancee in order to bring out her hidden nasty side and force her to reveal that she doesn’t want to be a stepmother to the girls. There are two huge problems with this scenario. First, the major conflict in the movie is stopping the father from remarrying. Second, the major villain is the father’s bride-to-be. This reinforces the ideas that parents getting married again is bad, and that step-parents are threats to the family. While some children of divorced parents may experience uncertainty when a parent decides to remarry, this does not have to be the norm. The millions of loving step-parents in blended families in the United States disprove any myths about wicked stepfathers and stepmothers.

The only happy ending is your parents getting back together
The Parent Trap ends with the divorced parents rediscovering their love for one another and marrying each other all over again. This happy ending fulfills a wish that many children of divorced parents may have, that their parents will get back together. Setting such a expectation in the real world can lead to disappointment for children. In the movie, the twins have no memory of their parents being together. They don’t really know what their parents marriage was like and if it would be better for them to get back together. That is why only in a movie would children make these kinds of decisions. In real life, adults must decide when the time has come to end a marriage. Children also need to clearly understand that the divorce has nothing to do with anything they did. They cannot bring their parents back together through their actions. The real happy ending is spending time with and loving both parents.

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