One of the biggest issues I keep hearing parents talk about during divorce is that their children won’t express their feelings or open up.
When I began thinking back on my time during high school, sort of the high-time of the divorce “fireworks,” I was one of those children who “wasn’t opening up.” I realize every situation may be different, but here are three reasons your children may not need or want to express their feelings to you.
These three reasons will not apply to every situation, but I’ve found that some parents are expecting their child, and in some cases even wanting them, to be experiencing the same intense anger and pain and overwhelm towards the other parent. In reality your child may be having a very different response.
We have our own lives.
It’s important to remember, especially for late adolescent to early adult children, that they have their own lives, whether it’s at school or at work. They have their own network of friends and activities.
As a high schooler, we have plenty on our plate already. I swam on the high school swim team and had early morning practice as well as after school practice. During track we had long practices after school. I was worried about girls, or doing well on a test, or being cool. I wasn’t always thinking about how my parents were doing, and I wasn’t thinking my life was ruined.
It’s not that we didn’t think the situation sucked, but we are in the early stages of our own lives and are trying to figure out our own crap.
Of course, I was lucky in the fact that both of my parents wanted to make their new homes always available to me. And both parents encouraged me in school and in my extra curricular activities. I highly encourage newly-divorced parents to focus their energies on things we’re doing. You are still responsible for your children and their well-being as they develop into adults.
Other parents were divorced or divorcing too.
I had friends on both teams who also had parents going through divorce or already had gone through it. Often just knowing that you aren’t alone in this situation made it much easier. If I had been the only one with divorced or divorcing parents, I think I would have needed to talk with someone about it. But one of the sad realities of divorce is that it’s everywhere.
I had a relatively large school of 1600 or so kids. Divorce was around, and we occasionally talked about it. Where are you staying most of the time? Where are your parents in the process? How is it going? Are they still fighting a lot?
It may not be all the psychological and therapeutic stuff that parent’s are hoping to hear, but we talked.
Divorcing or divorced parent’s aren’t a very objective ear.
As much as you as a mother or father might want to believe it, I didn’t really want to talk to my parents about it. They obviously had partisan views on the situation, so I knew it wouldn’t necessarily be an objective conversation.
Before the conversation even starts, the child knows that each parent already has extremely strong views of the divorce and how you as the child play into that. I know a lot of parents who strongly want their children to feel the same things they are feeling against the other parent. Your children notice that.
That being said, we have a pretty good idea of what’s going on. Kids are more perceptive than you might give us credit for.
One of the most important things you can do for your child is to not talk poorly about their other parent as much as you might want to. It has been shown many times that children of divorce who have relationships with both parents do better in the long-term than those who don’t.