“Once you bring kids into this world, its not about you anymore.” ~Tony Gaskins
One of the harshest outcomes of separation of a married couple is its inevitable impact on their children. As adults, most of us have already faced disappointments and changes, losses and challenges, at different stages in life. We have been in stressful situations in one-way or another, and we have developed our own coping mechanisms to deal with them and learn from them. But for small children, their parents’ separation and the disintegration of the family unit would perhaps be their first apparent life crisis! When as adults the situation can be excruciatingly painful, it is unimaginable to fathom the agony children can go through.
The way small children see it – family means the entire world to them. In the eyes of toddlers, their parents are truly their universe and there isn’t anything else, literally. Even older children, however detached and rebellious they can be, continue to define themselves in terms of their family. Their family is an intrinsic part of who they are. Their parents are the two most important people who mean everything to them. They perceive both mom and dad as a single entity, rather than seeing them differently as a mom and a dad. It is from this single unit that their family was created. No wonder then that children view their parents’ breakup as the end of something fundamentally significant.
When children see and absorb that their family is not what it used to be, that alone can shake them. It can evoke emotions of being unsure, anxious and insecure. Separation can seem like a catastrophe and be a devastating feeling!
We all feel a need to belong and there is no better sense of belonging than that which comes from being a part of a loving family. It becomes extremely crucial for a parent or both the parents, given different circumstances of separation, to help these children navigate through the painful process in a reassuring and healthy way.