Separation and divorce is one of the most painful and difficult challenges a person can face. Although the trial facing the couple seems obvious, often the damage done to children in these families is overlooked. "People get divorced all the time, kids are resilient, their friend?s parents are divorced ? they?ll be ok,? are some of the myths that get passed around when couples part ways. The fact is children can heal from divorce, but their pain and loss needs to be taken seriously and managed with care.
One thing that needs to be considered is that often children will feel they are to blame for their parent?s break up. "Maybe if I just cleaned my room up a little more? or "Maybe if I would have listened a bit more? are common concerns for children facing divorce. Parents need to be very clear that the divorce was not because of the children and that the kids are not responsible.
Secondly, parents who are separating need to "read between the lines? and see that their children?s actions more often than their words show their inner turmoil and grief. Some children become despondent and withdrawn while others might exhibit bullying-type behaviours in order to vent their anger. Parents need to be able to hear their children?s anger or pain and give them permission and help to voice these feelings. Parents cannot expect their children to go along with it, or "just get over it?. That doesn?t work. This is especially true if the parent suddenly introduces a new partner to the mix. Children need time and help to heal and move past their losses.
Finally, Parents need to find a way to communicate in a way that is child oriented. Mom and Dad simply cannot bad mouth the other parent in front of their children. Even when it is painful, they need to be able to hear from their kids that the new person their parent is dating with or living with is nice, without pressuring them to hate the new partner. For the sake of the child, parents need to be as amicable as possible. They should never pressure a child to like them more than their ex-spouse or use threats like, "If you don?t behave you can go live with your mother/father.? This is so detrimental to children!
See more next week in part two of Protecting the Children of Divorce.
Written by: Winnie Visser in collaboration with Sharon Osvald
Principles for Real Living:
I am responsible for my own attitude
My attitude affects my actions
I can not change others, but I can influence others
My emotions do not control my actions
Admitting my imperfections does not mean that I'm a failure
Love is the most powerful weapon for good in the world
Desperate Marriages by Gary Chapman, Northfield Publishing, Chicago 1998, 2008