It’s been about five years since my divorce. At the time one of my children was 10 and the other 17. They both reacted differently; the teenager took sides and of course was unforgiving to the losing parent. The youngest was confused, dazed, and trying to make us both happy, as if it was his responsibility. I can’t say that we were always civil and that there were never any arguments between us, because there was. As I look back now there were many things I should have done differently. It’s difficult to put your feelings aside for your children when emotions are running so high. We quickly tried to get the situation in hand however, for their sakes. We had a lot of help from nearby family. Making sure the children had the security of family that they desperately needed at this point.
I am aware that this is not always the case for every divorce. Some are more amiable and some are brutal. I also realize that people under these conditions are not always thinking rationally. Any time that you can get grandparents or other loving family members to take care of the children for a period of time it’s a good idea. If emotions are getting high and things are turning irrational it’s better for their sake and for yours.
Divorce is never easy under any circumstances, not for adults or for the children that get caught in the middle. Whether it’s a mutually agreeable decision or an emotionally ugly battle it can hurt either way. Children often feel responsible and/or guilty and want to take the blame. Sometimes that is the only way they can make sense out of the split, by blaming themselves. After all, you are their parents and could not be wrong, especially when the children are very young. In a child’s mind their parents are a package, not individuals.
There are ways to make it easier on them, if we as the adults focus on the children to help them sort out their feelings. It isn’t always easy but we have control over the situation, for the most part, and they have none. I’ve often heard people make the comment that children are resilient, they will bounce back. I can’t speak for everyone but I personally don’t know very many adults who bounced back after a devastating event where their lives got turned upside down as children. The two people in their lives that are supposed to remain constant, their anchors, have gone adrift. Here are just a few ways that I’ve experienced to help children during what is a confusing and chaotic time in their lives, as well as in yours.
- Communicate your love – Both parents need to reassure the children how much they love them and reiterate to the children that it is not their fault. Express it in words and in actions. Make eye contact, get down on their level, comfort them, and lots of hugs! Letting them know that they will not be getting divorced from either parent and that your love for them will not change. Even though you are going through various emotions yourself, it’s extremely important to keep your children secure in your love.
- Keep your explanations to a minimum – Understanding full well that children need explanations of a sort to help them deal with mom and dad not being together any more, there is still no reason to share every last detail with them. There are things children do not need to be privy to. Intimate details of why you are divorcing are not necessary. Too much information can be hurtful and leave a lifetime of emotional scars.
- Don’t put each other down – Do your best not to talk badly about the other parent, even if you think they deserve it. Try to mention only their good qualities. The children need both their parents; each one plays an equally important role in the maturity and growth of successful, healthy adults. They don’t have the same perception or opinion as you have towards your ex-partner, that is, unless you share it with them. It’s best for them not to taint the love and admiration they have towards your ex.
- Maintain the routine schedule – When at all possible, keep the children’s schedule business as usual. Don’t upset every aspect of their lives during this time; let them ease into the change. Keep as much contact going with the absent parent as possible. Do your best to keep up with all the usual activities; if you aren’t able perhaps the children can go with family members or their friends families. Try to keep their lives as stable as possible.
- Don’t make them choose a parent – Don’t make the children the rope in a tug of war. They don’t need to be used as pawns in a game of chess. Don’t make them feel like if they love one parent they are being disloyal to the other parent. It’s not fair to them, they love you both. It’s really a very human trait to vie for our children’s love, especially when we are hurt and insecure. Try your best to avoid doing this.
- Don’t compare them to the other parent – There is often a lot of resentment and hurt after a divorce. Sometimes we see our ex-spouses in our children, whether it’s in their looks, attitude, or little habits they have. These things sometimes become reminders and bring back resentments. Do your best not to express these feelings to your children. Telling them they are just like their mom or just like their dad, hearing the tone that comes with these accusations can do so much harm.
- Family and friends – Keep the children around the familiar faces of family and friends, keep things as light and fun as possible. Don’t exclude them from the other parent’s relatives or friends. Surround them with people that love them and bring them comfort. Just try and remember the children’s feelings haven’t changed towards the family members they have grown up loving.
- Don’t lavish them with gifts – Both parents need to keep this in mind. Do not try and buy their love, just love them with an open, whole heart. Things don’t bring comfort, loving relationships do.
- Family counseling – If you think that there are underlying issues that your children are struggling with or feelings they can’t express or overcome, then it may be time to go to counseling. These issues may cause them emotional harm in the future if they are unable to reconcile these feelings as they come up. Each parent should attend counseling sessions with the children as a family. Then set up some sessions for each child alone so that they can express themselves openly without fear of hurting their parents. They very well may have anger issues toward one parent or both. Getting these things out into the open may save future emotional trauma.
The most important reminder I can leave with you is not to let your hurt or resentment transfer from you to the children. This is very important. They are innocent bystanders who don’t have a say in what happens to them at this point. Think about their well being, what is the best thing you can do for them. They will love you all the more as they realize what you went through and how you did your best to protect them. Let love be the reason for everything you do, it will be returned to you.
Author Bio: Paul and his wife Julie both spend quite a bit of time coming up with ideas, blogging, and researching all things related to childcare. They take care of all the necessary information related to “babysitters”. He personally thinks his blog will help finding information on all things related to a babysitter.