Divorce can be a difficult experience for any couple let alone when that couple shares children together. Obviously it is much easier on all parties concerned when the couple divorcing is able to so do amicably, with mutal respect and compassion, unfortunately, this is more often than not, not the case.
Divorce for children as a result, is generally much more difficult for the children than the couple involved. Children don’t understand the complexities involved behind the reasoning for the divorce, as they are not the ones involved in said resonsing. More often than not, being in the ego-centric stage of life they are, and seeing their parents as nothing short of ‘gods’, children tend to blame themselves for their parent’s divorce.
This can affect even those children who are merely babes when mom and dad choose to not stay together or may have never been together. As the child grows up, becomes more consciously aware of norms and ‘gets out into the world’ – enters preschool, surrounded by other children and witnesses for themselves how other children live with both mommy and daddy, they begin to ask questions and wonder what was wrong with them that their mommy and daddy are not together like all their friend’s parents who are.
This skewed perceptual outlook is greatly assisted with open lines of communication with our children, explaining outright that the divorce or mom and dad not being together is no reflection upon them or their actions, and further supported by the assurance that the love of BOTH parents for the children is unwavering.
A difficult concept for a child to comprehend in that they are watching their parents, [those who are old enough to understand what is going on], whom to them are the epitome of perfection and thus the example of love itself, take their love away from one another.
To a child this is an automatic marker that one day their parents may take their love away from them.
This of course is only compounded when divorces get ‘ugly’ and parents are not careFull to ensure that their personal anger, resentement, and any negative feelings towards one another and about the divorce are kept in check when in front of their children. An unfortunate all too often state of affairs when it comes to divorce.
The truth is, as much as we idolize our parents, they are people too. They come fully equipped with all the emotions, pains, hurt, anger, ‘bad experiences’, dreams, goals, desires that any other of us ‘humans’ do.
And sometimes, these humans, our parents, expose these to their children, not necessarily in conscious awareness or intention but expose they do nonetheless.
It is thusly why it is so vastly important to ensure that the lines of communication are open with our children and more over that we are extraordinarly consciously aware of the impact of our action there upon.
Yes, it can be difficult to contain one’s outrage when in the midst of, well, an outraging experience, however, for the benefit of our children, using all the resources, tools and strength we have within us to muster to so do vital to our children’s well being. If this means having to take the kids to a neighbour, family member of friend for a few minutes or hours or lock yourself in the washroom for a spell, or close the door to your bedroom and scream into your pillow to ‘let off steam’ so BE it. It is a much healthier alternative than so doing in front of your children. On those occasion where one has ‘lost it’ in front of their children, again, open lines of communication is the answer. Acknowledge and apologize that you lost your temper, first and foremost. Just as when our children have a temper tantrum, we do not pretend it didn’t happen, we deal with it. Explain, in a language they can understand, that you were having a bad moment, that just like they sometimes get upset when something doesn’t go their way, you got upset in that moment but……and this is an important but, you realized, just as they do, after their temper tantrum, that whatever you were upset about is not as bad as you thought in the moment, that the temper tantrum you had was not necessary and that you just ‘got lost in the mud’ for a little bit, and are feeling much better right now. If you happened to say things that you should not have, [as opposed to just screaming or stomping, etc….] explain that you were speaking from your ‘angry place’ and were not thinking properly, you were not thinking from love – which IS the ‘Proper’ way to be thinking……ALLways.
Again open lines of communication are healthy and important, but remember, we are talking about children here, and their level of comprehension minimal in comparison. There is no need for our children to know the in’s and out’s, the nitty gritty details of why mom and dad are getting a divorce. More over there is no need for them to hear about all the negative reasons thereto. Mom and dad should never be put down by one another in front of the children whether when speaking to each other or about each other. This does nothing to assist the child.
Remember, though you may no longer love your partner or down right feel seething hate towards them they are still your child’s parent, as much as are you. Yes, even those parents who are absentee parents, not as involved, etc…..are still to the child, their mommy or daddy. As children we identify very strongly with our parents and thus to tell a child that your mom or dad is x,y, and z is to tell the child that they are this as well. Not cool.
What is cool to share with your child is your understanding of their sadness and their fears, as you feel it too. Change can seem scary, but that is only when we are thinking ahead as opposed to actually living the experience. Whilst living the experience, we are doing just that, living it. We are dealing with the experience of our lives, and though we may not allways like everything that is going on, we adjust; we survive and eventually thrive wherever it is that we find ourselves. Obviously, we would all prefer for everything to be ‘picture perfect’, however what defines ‘picture perfect’? To be able to assure our children that the choice mom and dad are making, though it may be difficult to see, again when looking ahead, is actually a choice that will make everyone much, much happier makes the entire transition period much easier for all concerned. Further more to go so far as to point out all the positives, as counterintuitive as that may seem, assists our children in focusing there upon. Again, as parents we have much influence as to where our children are focusing their attentions and what interpretations they are making thereof.
Once parents are able to so do, they can then enlist the creative support of their children in choosing how their new lives shall be. For example, in speaking of all the onederfull new things this ‘opportunity’ shall bring to them, get them involved – or at least allow them to think they are – in the decision making process of what that new life shall be. Divorce means 2 residents instead of one, so ask your children what kind of residence they would like, or take them with you when looking at potential new places. Ask them how they would like their new bedroom [s] decorated, what special things they would like to do with Mom and what special things they would like to do with Dad. Let them know they are not only being taken into consideration regarding all these new decisions but are also part of the decision making process – even if only in their eyes.
Divorce, as with anything in life is as easy or as difficult as we choose to make it. When it comes to children being involved, there is no other time that is more vitally important for us to make the choice to make it as easy as we possibly can. Leave the arguments, your anger, resentment, etc… out of the house and away from the children. This is likely one of the greatest opportunities any two people ever have to choose to mutually focus on the positives – in the very least so long as they are in the company of their children.
**Special note regarding dealing with an absentee, abusive or unavailable/mentally ill parent.***
As easy as it is to ‘go to town’ on said parent, and tell your child how horrible they are, it does NOTHING but demean your child’s own perception about themselves. If you are dealing with a parent who is absent, abusive or unavailable in some way, it is important to ensure your child knows that their parent DOES LOVE them, even if they are unable to [or simply do not at all] show or express it. Explaining to your child that their mom or dad has some ‘boo-boos’ that they need to go to the doctor to get help with for example is a much better choice than telling them what a useless, uncaring, irresponsible parent their mom or dad is. This not only inflicts pain unto your child, making them feel unworthy and undeserving of their parent’s love, it also, because their unavailable parent is not around, leaves the only one they have to blame and lash out on as you. Not something, that is not of your doing, that you want to have to shoulder the burden of. As the saying goes, ‘take the high road’ ensuring that above all else your child knows they are loved and wanted by both of their parents, even when one of them is incapable of showing/doing what is necessary to demonstate this truth.