I was about 15 when my parents officially got divorced. It wasn’t a pretty divorce, but I’m sure it wasn’t the worst. It took about three years of struggle for my Mom to finally call it quits and put an end to the marriage. Then a few years after that of very painful rebuilding and rediscovering who she was.
So what are the effects of divorce on children?
I don’t know if I could tell you exactly what the psychological effects where on me, but I can tell you a few things I was thinking that probably aren’t exactly what you think. Here are three things I want to share with you as you work with your children during this time.
#1 Children are often experiencing a very different emotional response to the divorce.
My Mom always talks about being in the tornado of divorce. That time when you can’t really see anything clearly outside of the crazy whirlwind. It’s hard to see what may be going on outside through that lens of divorce. And what the effects on children really are.
You may mistakenly believe that everyone else is also in the tornado with you, feeling the same things you are. I would first like to point out that in my situation, my father still very much wanted to be a part of my life. And know that isn’t always the case.
The main point on want to make is that the relationship between a husband and wife is simply very different from the relationship between a father and child. So what are the effects of this?
You should try to acknowledge that what you are feeling emotionally may be extremely different than what your child is feeling. Especially when the father still wants to be a part of our lives. This may be different than what you are wanting to hear, you probably don’t like the thought of that.
I want to comfort and say we aren’t dumb, and we know what’s going on. Don’t think that the relationship hasn’t be effected in some way, but it’s not to the magnitude of what you may be going through.
#2 Resist the temptation to impose your feelings through us.
I want to demonstrate this one through a story. A few years into the divorce we received a phone call at our house from my soccer coach. I happened to pick up the phone right after my Mom who had already started talking with him.
They started talking and at one point my coach asked how she was doing and how I was doing. And the response my Mom gave was really quite upsetting at the time. Remember – I was there with her through the brunt of the recovery process and saw all the tears, and heard all the screaming and experienced the turmoil she was going through.
But…her response was something along the lines of “I think I’m doing okay, but you know, Grady is really really struggling with this.”
I was shocked. How could she speak for me without really knowing what I was feeling. I was busy with school, I was involved with sports, I had a good group of friends. I was just living my life.
My point is not to assume you know the effects of divorce on your children or use that assumption to speak for them.
#3 We generally aren’t “alone” during this time
As you know divorce has become a major reality of our time. And being in school you are surrounded by other children going through the same thing, or already have gone through it or shortly will go through it. It’s become a part of our culture.
We have people we can talk to if we need to. Don’t necessarily assume that we are keeping it all bottled up because we don’t talk about it at home.
I’m not saying it doesn’t bother us. Believe me it does, but we aren’t outcasts or experiencing some unheard of trauma that we don’t already see around us. I don’t know if that is a comfort to hear or not, but I honestly believe we are resilient and will get through this still standing firmly on our feet.
Have faith that your children will get through this, that they aren’t going to be messed up and that we truly want to see you get better.