By Ms. N. Meridian
When things don’t work out between you and the person you married, you suffer internally, agonizing over a new life without each other, reminiscing about the way he once made you feel. Then, it hits you: what about your children? What happens to them?
For most, the custodial decision is practical. The children will stay with you, their mother, their nurturer, their care-giver. You are the one who kisses their feverish foreheads, who cleans up the vomit and tucks them into bed. Is Divorce Becoming a Luxury?
Beyond the financial aspects of your marriage and deciding who keeps the kids, not much is discussed, and many parents forget about the emotional turmoil their children suffer as a result of divorce. But it’s not just the parents who suffer from the failed union. Often, children of divorced couples undergo the mayhem in silence.
My parents got divorced, and so did I, and I also have a child. Here are several things I’ve learned from both of our experiences:
1. Kids feel responsible. Children may feel an overwhelming guilt about the relationship ending. Some children may feel that the marriage ended because of something they’ve said or done. Sadly, without a parent’s reassurance that the divorce had nothing to do with them or their actions, your children may harbor this and may begin to feel anxiety over losing the other parent as well.
2. Their behavior changes. Some children begin to act out in an effort to display distance from their new home life situation. To suddenly go from a secure two parent home to a one parent home can be devastating for some. For others, withdrawal seems best to avoid getting hurt further. Of course, the child who is suddenly uncomfortable in an alien environment may retreat to the safety of their fantasies, friends, school work, anything to keep from admitting that anything is wrong.
Some even act out because the only parent in their lives full-time becomes too distracted and overwhelmed by the situation and thus, avoids the children. As a result, the misbehaving children begin to hope that their new behavior will force their parents to pay attention to them. It may be the only way these children know how to cry out for help.
3. They feel a sense of loss. Losing a parent to divorce can be just as traumatic, in some cases, as losing a parent to death. Where some once seemed complacent, many may feel loss because the other parent is no longer in their lives full-time. In DK Simoneau’s book, We’re Having A Tuesday, Simoneau describes how children living with both parents, but not necessarily under the same roof, can find solutions that work for both the divorced parents and the children involved.
In the end, parents have to yet again, read between the lines, follow all the nonverbal cues their children are sending out in order to help resolve this matter. Sadly, feelings of loss may always be with your child, but there are tactics we as parents can employ to decrease these feelings over time.
4. They may resent you. Although most parents try to shield their child from the harmful effects of divorce, resentment creeps in, nonetheless. This is especially true when one parent seems to have moved on to another love, another life and eventually another family. Children can feel displaced, not knowing where, if at all, they fit into their absent parent’s life.
5. They hate when you fight. Believe it or not, your children love both of you. So bashing one, or denouncing the other isn’t showing the children you’re a hero. In their eyes, you’re making an already difficult situation unbearable. Besides, fighting will only give the absent parent a viable excuse not to visit or communicate with their children. And guess who will be the bad guy in that scenario? I can assure you, it won’t be dad.
6. They need you to listen. Getting anything more than a few words out of your children gets harder as they get older. So shut up and listen! If your child offers that rare moment for you to get into his/her world, take it. When your children ask to talk to you, oblige them. Although the last thing you want to do is relive the doomed relationship, if your children ask about dad, offer a few kinds whenever possible.
Yes, you’re still reeling from your new situation, your new debt, and the fact that you now have to start playing the field all over again. But that’s not your children’s concern. Recall a few of the good times you had together, as well as what went wrong. I’m not saying you should reopen old wounds in this case. On the contrary, keep your explanation to a minimum all while reassuring your children that the divorce had everything to do with you and your ex’s relationship, not them.
7. They aren’t adults. Your child has been through enough in regards to the divorce. So keeping a set of rules by which to live helps reestablish your child’s understanding that although you may have been thrown a curveball in life, you’’e still holding everything together. Even if you are crumbling internally, your children don’t want to know this. It only frightens them. Not to mention, your strength and flexibility shows them that they too can handle difficulties that arise in life.
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