Family

Helping your kids through your divorce

Author: Canadian Living

Family

Helping your kids through your divorce

Right after separation or divorce, kids are sad for a time. Their sadness hurts us too, and makes us want to do something to eliminate their pain. But we have to remember they have a right to their sadness, and to any other feelings they may be experiencing, including anger. After all, the world as they've always known it has ended.

From most children's point of view, living with both parents -- even if half the kids at school don't –- is the natural order of things. When that order is disrupted, it opens up a whole spectrum of unknowns.

So you can expect children to react with anxiety and fear, as well as sadness and anger -– but you can comfort and reassure them, too. You can help them get through this time by being:

1. Consistent: making your relationship with them as predictable and reliable as you can.

2. Loving: showing them, through actions as well as words, how much you care for them.

3. Reassuring: telling them, in no uncertain terms, that even though their parents have separated, Mommy and Daddy both still love them, and will both still be there for them -– and backing up those statements by promoting a good relationship between them and the absent parent.

By taking this approach, your children will have a good chance of working through their anxieties and learning to accept the new reality in their lives. But as you did, they'll need time to mourn their old life before accepting the new one –- even if the new one's going to be better.

Be clear that this is permanent
In the meantime, you'll have to be honest with them about the permanence of your breakup. Most children entertain at least some hopes and fantasies that Mom and Dad will get back together again.

They may cling to these hopes and fantasies for a surprisingly long time –- especially if neither parent is involved in a stable relationship with someone else. If that finally happens, the children are usually able to say, “You know, I can't imagine you and Dad (Mom) living together anymore -– you're both so different.”

Until then, you can expect your kids to indulge in reconciliation fantasies. And that's all right, if it gives them a temporary handhold on the security they need. Just remember that you don't need to act out their fantasies for them. After all, you don't act out all your own fantasies –- why should you feel an obligation to act out someone else's?

Page 1 of 2 - Read page two to find out about badmouthing your former partner!


 



Excerpted from On Your Own Again by Keith Anderson and Roy Macskimming. Copyright 2007 by Keith Anderson and Roy Macskimming. Excerpted by permission of McClelland & Stewart. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

 

Here's where an important maxim comes in: You're not responsible to your children, you're responsible for them.
Your real responsibility is to provide adequate and appropriate parenting. This means that when your child verbalizes the fantasy "Daddy, why don't you and Mommy get together again?" you respond from your own adult experience, and not from the child's experience. You say, “I know you'd like that to happen. But your mommy and I just can't live together anymore. It wouldn't work out for us -– and it wouldn't work out for you either.”

Exactly how you say it depends, of course, on your children's ages, maturity, and personalities. By acknowledging their wish, while at the same time clarifying that it isn't going to come true, you are recognizing their inner reality and showing that you're responsible for making the tough but necessary decisions.

As for why your relationship broke up, you'll want to give your children some sort of explanation –- again, appropriate to their age level –- when they ask, as they inevitably will. Make it brief but clear, so they won't feel completely left in the dark. And keep it honest, but not too honest: Leave out the gory details.

Don't bad-mouth your former partner
If for example, you say something like, “We just grew apart,” it will be fairly meaningless to them. On the other hand, avoid: “Your father is a despicable swine,” or “Your mother is a conniving bitch,” since it doesn't help your kids to hear you bad-mouthing their other parent.

You might try some variation on: “Your mother (father) and I just can't live together anymore. . . . We were very unhappy with each other, fighting about things all the time. . . . We tried counseling [provided you actually did], and it didn't work for us. . . . So it's best if we live apart now. And believe it or not, it's best for you too.”

Those are about all the lines I can feed you. In fielding your kids' questions, I'm afraid you're on your own. The only real ground rules I would suggest are to avoid character assassination, and especially, to avoid explicit sexual issues; certainly with younger children, and even with teenagers. In general, it's not a good idea for kids to know too much about their parents' sex lives. That would just involve them inappropriately with intimate details that would disturb them, which are none of their business anyway.

Page 2 of 2



Excerpted from On Your Own Again by Keith Anderson and Roy Macskimming. Copyright 2007 by Keith Anderson and Roy Macskimming. Excerpted by permission of McClelland & Stewart. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Helping your kids through your divorce

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