Divorce is hard on everyone involved directly and beyond. The whole process can be prolonged and at times seriously acrimonious.
The main thing to remember is that, the divorce itself is an important occurrence in the children’s lives but what is even more important is how it’s handled because that can end up being even more traumatic than the fact that mummy and daddy no longer live together.
Short story here: I was listening to the radio the other day and this man, in his thirties had suddenly lost his mother when he was in his late teens but when asked what his most difficult time had ever been in his life, he said it was when he was 11 the age at which his parents divorced.
The presenter/interviewer person commented that she had expected him to say that it was when his mother had died (so had I).
He went on to explain that that had been really difficult and that he missed his mother a lot but the experience of divorce tore into him much deeper as his parents fought, argued, slagged each other off in front of him and his siblings and then went on to use them as messengers, passing on notes and words between the two parents.
In divorce, the children’s welfare has got to be paramount because the repercussions can last a very, very long time.
In all my years as a Child and Family Trauma Therapist the children would almost always state that they wanted to keep in touch or to continue to see his/her parent despite the fact that the said parent had been the main cause of their trauma. They didn’t mind or care if this contact was done in a supervised environment.
Here’s how you can start helping children cope with divorce:
- Make sure their fears, worries and anxieties are contained. Some of the things that they begin to worry about may seem really trivial to you but remember it may not be for them. Just bear with them as they ask questions sometimes the same question over and over again. It is their way of processing what is going on. Provide them with a space and a place to voice their concerns if not to you whoever else they feel comfortable with.
- You might find that they begin to want to look after you, to make sure that you are alright. Make sure they don’t fall into this caring role. Remind them that you are the parent and that you are there to look after them not the other way round. Don’t use them for advise or involve them in arguments between the two of you
- Don’t make them your messengers. They don’t want to be the ones telling mummy or daddy that the cheque didn’t go through. Find a way of communicating with your ex that suits you best. Fortunately we have so very many ways to communicate these day, emails, skype, texts, whatsapp, Facebook, telephone calls etc. Some parents have notebooks in which they write things to one another for the other parent to read and be aware of anything new etc. This is good, if used correctly but can be dangerous if mis-used and if/when the children are old enough to read.
- Remember that the divorce is only between you and your spouse. The children are not divorcing the other parent, you are. This is very tricky especially where there has been violence. When I worked as a Children and Family Trauma Therapist, I met with children who’s parents had been the cause of their trauma. Some involved fire bombs that dad had thrown into the house in the night when they were sleeping, some where mummy had attacked daddy so brutally that he ended up in a coma. But what these children would state at some point during our work together was, “I still want to see him/her. He/she is still my dad/mum.” Why because as they say it, “He/she is still my dad/mum.” Nothing will ever change that unless they, themselves decide to do so.
- Financial matters and Children arrangements don’t go hand in hand. Keep them separate. Your children don’t know why the maintenance hasn’t come through or what is lacking unless you make it a point of telling them, which doesn’t benefit them in anyway at all. Don’t hold them hostage when maintenance doesn’t come forth. It’s truly not their fault.
- Don’t introduce a new partner within 5 mins of the separation, however happy make you. Take your time to deal with everything else. Look after yourself and look after the children. If the new person in your life loves and cares for you and truly wants to be with you, then he/she will wait and respect the fact that there are children in the picture and they need to be allowed to process, take in and live with any new arrangements that come their way.
If you are concerned about your little ones or would just like an informal chat do send me an email at email@example.com or call me on +44(0)7850 85 60 66
With lots and lots and lots of warm hugs
Don’t forget to check out the online course Parenting after Separation.
It’s got so much information on looking after children of divorce and it’s all done with your child’s developmental stage in mind.