Divorce and our children
Most women, including myself, put off a divorce because of the children.
We worry what it will do to them. Will they be traumatized and become really screwed up because our relationship didn’t work out?
I’m not sure there’s an answer to that question. Sorry, but it’s true.
So much depends on how the separation and divorce are handled. Whether we’re able to be mature about it and spare our kids the histrionics. Unfortunately, most aren’t.
Certainly my parents couldn’t. Both of my parents shared way too many details with me about each other. I was the only child and my parents ended up confiding in me in a way that I think was extremely unhealthy. Looking back on it I just knew way too much about what broke up their marriage. I was 10! I shouldn’t have heard about infidelities, extreme heartache, lovers and so on.
In most couples, one parent, or both, make it a living hell. And of course it becomes that way for the children as well.
Children are SO perceptive, and so vulnerable. They pick up on our moods, stress, feelings, and when we can’t remain stable for our kids they suffer.
That doesn’t mean we have to be rocks with no feelings at all. That’s not good for our children either. But I would suggest that if you must argue or cry and have it out with your ex, do it away from the children–in private!
I know this isn’t always possible, but try to leave the kids out of it as much as you can.
Why? Because initially
- the kids will think the divorce is their fault
- they will lose sleep over seeing you upset
- they will cry because they feel very unsafe now that their home is broken
- they will believe that you could leave them too
These feeling do wane over time if their lives become stable again, but I remember as an adult both of my parents coming to see me off at the train, and as I looked out the window at them standing together, it physically hurt me. I knew they were only there together for me. That it was so temporary that it took my breath away. I felt as if I’d been punched in the gut (and yes I do know what that feels like strangely enough). I felt again all that I lost that evening over dinner when I was 10 and they told me they were separating.
I can give you one piece of advice based on being a child of divorce and having a son who has lived through one as well. If you feel that there are sacrifices that you should make for your children, and you feel them in your heart, then you should. And you won’t regret them later.
I made a lot of sacrifices for my son while he was growing up to keep his life as stable and healthy as possible, and now that he’s 16 I don’t regret any of them!
They were very hard personally, and yes my mental health likely suffered, but I believed, and still do, that kids are not the ones who should have to sacrifice after a divorce. That belief comes from my own personal experience, and my deep love and respect for my son.
Children will get through it, but only as well as their parents do.