“Divorce isn’t such a tragedy. A tragedy is staying in an unhappy marriage, teaching your children the wrong things about love. Nobody ever died of divorce.” ~ Jennifer Weiner
Through this blog, I have had the privilege to connect with some interesting souls who bring along their own unique life stories. Some of them have connected with me in the open, while some secretly through personal contact. Amongst these many associations, there is one life story that has touched me hard. One soul who has been distraught with her parents divorce when she was a child. She has been nursing strong feelings of hatred and bitterness for the longest of time. ‘If only I was a better child, this wouldn’t have happened. My father would have then loved me and not left us’, she had expressed in one of her conversations with me. She blames herself for their divorce and for all the hatred that her father has for her.
This made me think that how parents handle their divorce is so much more important than the impact of the actual event on the little minds. Divorce is an extremely sensitive topic.Children must be handled with utmost care and they must be aware of certain facts. How critical it is for the children in divorce to receive the right messages at the right time. What you say, how, where and when you say it are all important factors to keep in mind. From my personal experience, and from what I have read and learnt over the years, I believe this is what must be conveyed to the children:
Divorce is imminent – ‘Mom and Dad are not going to live together anymore. We tried hard to stay in the relationship but it’s just not working out. We have been unable to work out our adult problems. We feel it is healthier to separate and go our ways rather than live with constant conflict under one roof.’
Your parents will always remain your parents – ‘Mom and Dad will always remain your Mom and Dad. Divorce happens between the two parents and not between parents and their children. It is the end of the marriage but not the end of our relationship with you.’
It’s not your fault – ‘You are not to be blamed. Nothing that you have done or not done has caused this to happen. Nor can you prevent this painful event from happening. You are not responsible in any way for this divorce.’
You will always be loved – Unless there’s a situation in which one parent abandons the child/children, children need to know they will always be loved, that the parents will always be there for them. As long as this remains true, they need to know that even the parent who is no longer living with them, will be there for them. They will always be cared for and all their needs will be met.
Changes will occur in our family life – ‘Our family maybe called broken but we will still be a family in many ways.’ Here, it is extremely important to explain to the children the mutually agreed upon visitation schedule. How often the non-resident parent will see the kids and where – all details have to be explained well. It is equally important to specify what will not change – the sibling, the home, maybe the school, other relatives, their belongings, etc.
It is not the end of your world – ‘Having divorced parents can be extremely painful and challenging. I/We recognise your feelings. You have a right to be angry and hurt. But be assured, it is definitely not the end of your world. There’s a lot more that life has to offer. Even though this event may seem insurmountable now, you will soon discover ways to get past your pain and angst. You will come out strong and successful, you can surely thrive!’
“I strongly believe children can thrive through divorce. Children need parents who love them. Children need to know they are safe. Children need stability and sometimes that’s much easier to achieve outside a marriage than in a broken one.” ~Lisa Hayes
The best of kids have divorced parents – Children often wonder why their parents are divorced and not the parents of their friends. It is very easy to feel victimised. It is natural for them to think they must be bad kids, hence this is happening to them. But children need to know that divorce can happen to the best of kids. This has nothing to do with their behaviour or shortcomings whatsoever. They are wonderful children. And will continue to be so.
Ideally, both parents should break this news together. But every situation of separation is different and even if one parent has to break the news, so be it. Be careful of the place where these things are being discussed, as there is likely to be emotional breakdowns. And again, the messages have to be reiterated in an age appropriate language.
When children of divorce look back, they realize that the moment of hearing ‘the news’ changed their lives forever. This makes it vital for the parent/parents to handle it well and set the tone for an emotionally strong future.
Also read: How children see their family