The divorce process can be confusing and extremely difficult for everyone involved. Often when someone is under such an immense amount of stress and frustration (…midlife divorce), they can react in regrettable ways.
As a child of divorce, I witnessed many incidents that my parents probably wish they could erase from my memory. And there were definitely moments during my parents divorce that made me question if my mom was now a crazy person! Below are a few scenarios that may cause your children to feel concerned, and some tips on how to clearly communicate the difficulties you are experiencing to them.
1. Did You Immediately Think Of An “Incident”?
If you can immediately think of that ONE story where your emotions got the best of you in front of your child, they’ve probably thought “you’re crazy.”
I will never forget the time we were driving (down a busy road, of course) and my Mom spotted my Dad’s mistress riding her bike. My mom immediately pulled a U-turn, so she could drive right alongside the woman. Naturally, I was riding in the passenger seat alongside where the woman was riding, so my Mom rolled down my window and hollered a string of condescending remarks across the car. On public television I imagine it would have sounded like: “You bleeping, little bleep! Why can’t you bleeping bleep, bleep, bleep.”
After my mom had finished expressing herself, I continued to sit quietly, thankful we were driving away. Until.. 50 yards later when she decided to pull another U-turn, because apparently she had a few MORE things to say! This time we were so close to the woman, I could have reached out my window and knocked her off the bike!
Each time my Mom re-tells the story there are significantly fewer cuss words than I remember, but the impression was made. I was honestly concerned that she might run the lady off the road into a ditch.. or worse. This was probably the moment I thought she had lost it.
2. Have Your Children Found You In A State Of Resignation?
During divorce, seemingly simple tasks such as getting out of bed in the morning, taking a shower and going to the grocery store can seem like insurmountable hurdles. Several of the women who’ve gone through our programs spoke about how their children would share “on call” duty. If you were “on-call” on a particular day, you would stop by or call to make sure ‘mom’ was still taking care of herself.
Learning to simply get yourself ready to face the day during divorce can sometimes be a huge victory. If you’ve found yourself in this state you may find the Divorce Survival Kit as a helpful resource.
3. You Can’t Seem To Move On
Many people we’ve worked with are shocked at how long it actually takes to begin healing. If you’ve been married 20 + years or your ex left you unexpectedly and your whole world is ripped apart, the recovery process can even take years. As much as it is shocking for you to understand, it’s equally as difficult for your children to understand, and they often can’t figure out what’s going on with you.
If you find yourself still talking about how you should have done this, or if you had done that, one or two years down the road, your child will be concerned. We want our parent to get better and to start living again. Watching you stay stuck for an over -extended period of time can be distressing for your children.
4. Ask For Patience – Sincerely & Honestly
Your world has been completely turned upside down. The dreams and plans you had for your future are gone, and processing that loss is a truly devastating and gut-wrenching task.
Your new reality might not be as apparent to your children as you might think. Explain that you are honestly trying your best to be there for them, and be the parent they need. But you are struggling. A single song on the radio can send shockwaves through your heart. Let them know that those little things are going to happen from time to time, but you have faith that they will occur less and less.
Apologize ahead of time for moments of weakness when you can’t control you sadness. Where you may fall short. Let them know that you are trying and want to get to a better place. Be honest with what you are feeling and that you know it may be hard to understand, but that you are trying.
Then have them reach out to me, so I can tell them that their parent isn’t crazy. You are not the only parent struggling, you are not the only parent taking a longer time to heal than you thought was reasonable. Keep looking forward and let your child know you are making progress. You will make rational decisions again one day.