One of the most challenging issues a parent going through a divorce has to deal with is what and how to tell their children about their divorce. The heartbreak and sadness a parent feels as a result of the breakdown of the partnership they once had with their spouse often pales in comparison to the stress and concern one goes through when they think of their own child’s heartbreak and sadness over their divorce.
Although not an easy conversation to have with your children there are a few pointers that are important to keep in mind when discussing divorce with your children:
Honesty is the best policy – Telling your children the truth about why their parents are breaking up without disparaging the other parent can be a hard pill to swallow. Sticking to simple and honest explanations like “We can’t get along anymore” is enough information to ensure your children that your divorce is not a result of anything your children have done.
Reassurance – You can never say “I love you” too many times to your children during this time. Reassuring your children that although the feelings both you and your spouse have for each other may have changed, the feelings you and your spouse have for the children will never change.
Prepare them for the new normal – The uncertainty of what to expect in the future can create anxiety in children. Laying out a plan regarding living arrangements and parenting schedules can help ease a child’s concerns about their relationships with each of their parents, and their day-to-day routines.
Divorce can be heartbreaking, traumatic and painful for both spouses regardless of who initiated the break-up. The length of time that it takes for a person to move on and heal from their divorce varies case by case and person to person.
People often believe the overwhelming feelings of sadness and unhappiness that they experience while going through the divorce process are the result of mourning the loss of their spouse and the life they had once shared together. It is not uncommon that we recreate and distort our memories, subconsciously filtering our recollection of events through rose-colored glasses while completely dismissing the negative memories.
Although no two divorces are the same, the breakdown of any marriage is rarely, if ever caused by one single event, followed by an immediate filing for divorce from one or both spouses. The path that leads people to divorce is usually a long, sad and lonely one and as creatures of habit we gradually adapt to accepting whatever life we find ourselves in instead of looking for a happier and more satisfying life. Unfortunately, sometimes the path to living a satisfying and happy life can only happen by confronting the sharp pain of ending a chapter in your life in preparation for a new beginning. Just like ripping off a band-aid, it hurts in the beginning – a lot– and then one day it doesn’t. You soon find that you are able to look forward and not back, replacing the sad and lonely days that you thought you missed, with happy and fulfilling ones.
“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Gautama Buddha
Experienced divorce attorneys know what holding onto anger looks like from the eyes of a betrayed spouse. The betrayed spend emotional energy defying, resisting, delaying and even punishing their betrayers. Despite the warnings and guidance of their attorneys, the betrayed are on their own emotional journeys while their attorneys follow at a close distance with a broom and dustpan to manage the mess. Volatile emails and text messages between spouses escalate. Sometimes the spouses enlist the children for support. Excessive spending on legal fees and other expenses increase. These are the most common ways the betrayed will attempt to punish their exes and the most damaging to them both emotionally and financially. Sometimes an apology soothes the anger, and on other occasions it is a disappointing exercise.
The betrayer is no better. Instead of contrition, the betrayer is emboldened by the new relationship, encouraged to fight back, inflames the conflict by introducing the children to the new relationship, or becoming less available to them, and retaliates with financial withholding and communication black-outs.
How can these reactions be managed? Here are our top 3 “Helpful” techniques:
Take Care of You First – Find a therapist to acknowledge and redirect emotional reactions; make time for yourself; exercise; meditation; a healthier lifestyle.
Avoid Engaging with Your Ex – This is more difficult when children are involved but isolating yourself from their social media websites and intentional run-ins will ease your anxiety and heighten your ex’s curiosity. Take the emotion out of your interactions. Adopt new flexibility techniques and avoid being too reactive.
Keep Busy – Time heals wounds. Being busy makes your time more constructive and reduces your focus on the conflict. Forming new and building on current friendships brings new dimensions to fill in the missing pieces.
Getting divorced is one of the worst times in a person’s adult life. It can rarely be considered a positive experience. Minimizing the bad experience and keeping you healthy to live happy again is the goal.