It’s amazing to me that most adults have no understanding how their decision to divorce effects their children and I don’t care how old those children are. This is not a tirade about staying in unhappy dysfunctional relationships, because that can have even worse results on your kids’ abilities to create loving respectful relationships of their own.
What I am speaking to here are some of the ramifications of divorce on children which the adults who take this action all too often fail to realize.
Many years ago I had a 10 year old child come to see me. I was working with the woman who had come to live in his home with her two youngest children. She and his father had been friends going all the way back to junior high school and they felt that they could help one another out. During one of my sessions with this woman she told me that this particular kid was going through a very difficult time, acting out, causing trouble mainly due to his anger from what she could tell. She wanted to know if I could see him and help him out.
He came in with his father for two sessions. The first session we did some work around why he felt he was acting out. He didn’t really know. Then I asked him about the issue of the divorce between his dad and mom. He like many kid’s felt that he was to blame. The truth of the matter was that his mother had gotten into some issues with drug addiction and though was off them for a few years, got pulled back onto them by a “friend” of hers. It was at this juncture that his father had, had enough and filed for divorce.
The child was aware of his mother’s problem with drugs, and they spoke a little about that during the session. But, the more helpful explanation the father gave to his son was to ask his son if he ever had any friends that he no longer thought of as friends for whatever reason. The son admitted this was so. So, his father explained that sometimes people grow in different directions and the relationships just don’t work out as they once did. That seemed to help this kid out a lot.
I had an older woman come into see me whose parents divorced when she was quite young. In this case her father gave her a ton of attention and the mother who left, was never seen again. This was an issue of abandonment by the mother which lead this woman to feelings of unworthiness of love, spending her life with men who abused her and used her, never able to create a healthy relationship. This is something that happens too often, when a parental figure abandons the role of parent. In this case we needed to do some forgiveness work and inner child work, to help this woman heal the feelings of abandonment.
I had another client who came in a while ago whose parents divorced and placed the kids in the middle. It was a no-win situation for the kids, and this particular one was very angry to be put in the position. This kid realized that the parents were creating lots of stress that was unneeded and resented it. This was a harder case to deal with because the kid was still in the situation and couldn’t leave it. Mainly we worked on his taking himself out of the parental relationship, meaning that he realized that this was his parents issue and that they needed to deal with it, not he. In the mean time he focused his time and energy on doing those things that he enjoyed, buried himself in his studies. He did this to get into a great college so that he would have a career that would sustain him without having to rely on his parents any longer, having shown that they weren’t emotionally there for any of their children, their hatred for one another having gotten in the way of everything.
Parents, sometimes divorce is necessary. I know, being a divorced person myself, never wanting this to happen. Unlike you, I never had any kids. Like you, I can understand the rage and hurt that one experiences especially when one never thought they would be going down this road.
That said, you have to remember that you brought these children into the world and as such it is your responsibility to take care of their needs: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. It is NOT up to them to take care of any of your needs. It is up to the adults to figure out a way to interact with one another to get the things done that need to be done, and do It in such a manner as to allow your kids to know that they matter more than your own hurt feelings. For that get yourself the help you deserve to process the hurt feelings and get your lives back in line.
If your children are doing worse in school then they did before the divorce, seem to be moping around the house, or are out to all hours of the night on a school night and you haven’t a clue where they are at, with whom they are, or what they are doing, it is your responsibility to let them know that you recognize the behavior for what it is. It is up to you to ask them what is bothering them, and it is up to you to let them know that you are there for them. Let them know that the changes in the family as a result of the divorce is most likely difficult for them. Let them talk to you about it letting their feelings be “heard” and then ask them what they feel would help them to deal with it better and why that matters. It matters because no one can be expected to care a lot about anything if they feel their whole life has been taken away from them and worse, if they are blaming them selves for the split in your relationship with your spouse.
So, please be brave, be cognizant that you aren’t the only one who is being adversely effected and have those talks, in a loving and emotionally validating manner. In that way you may very well be helping your child to stay out of larger difficulties while helping them to process the feelings one would go through as a result of a divorce between their parents.
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