Getting a divorce is a monumental decision, one that affects everyone involved, possibly for generations. So, the story of your divorce is important to tell with care of the consequences. The narrative you create will have a profound effect on your children. It’s important to get it right.
This is a tremendous responsibility at a time when you are in a tumultuous emotional state, even if you have an amicable divorce. You’re stressed and you’re mourning the loss of a dream—the loss of your future as you envisioned it. You’re probably feeling you’ve been treated badly by your ex, at least to some degree. But you must narrate a story about your divorce with equanimity—from a place of empowerment, even if it’s a struggle.
Perhaps you are angry and bitter. You want your children to know your side of the story. You know you shouldn’t bad-mouth him, but derogatory remarks are dangerously close to the surface. It takes all your will-power not to speak ill of him. Do not weaken. You need to view your ex with as much compassion as you can muster. It is your job to make sense of this very significant experience for your children. It has the potential to shape who they become as adults, and ultimately, how they interact with your grandchildren to come.
Meanwhile, make sure your children:
- Know you love them. Children need demonstrative proof that they are still loved, even though their parents no longer love one another. Reassure them that both of you will never change in your love and devotion to them, and that they are your very first priority.
- Know they are safe. Your children’s world has fallen apart, and the sands have shifted from beneath them. They need to feel secure and safe. Establish routines and reliable structure that they can depend on. Maintain their meal schedules, school activities, and play dates as much as possible. Assure them that even though there are big changes in their lives, there is a solid foundation upon which they can base their lives.
- Know they’re not to blame. For some reason children often take on way too much blame for their parents’ split, which can be unfathomable to parents. So even if you think this thought would never cross their minds, reassure them that they did nothing to cause the divorce. It is not their fault in any possible way. And, there is nothing they can do to bring you two back together. Make sure they understand that the divorce was the decision you and your spouse made as adults after careful thought. Your child does not need to know the unhappy reasons for reaching this decision.
- Know they can depend on you. You are bound to feel vulnerable and sad, and your child may even try to comfort you, reversing the child-parent role. But make sure you let them be a child, and encourage them to play, do well in school, have fun, learn, and NOT play the role of an adult. They will be less apt to do this if you do your best to remain emotionally healthy and strong. Therapy may help you do this.
Divorce is never ideal, but when it must happen—and often it must—make sure your children come first.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact