No matter who, no matter what the circumstances, the children of divorce always suffer. Unfortunately, most will suffer in silence. Young children, even through adolescent ages, do not know how to communicate what they are feeling because they lack the skills to articulate the pain and grief they are feeling. The great loss that children can feel when parents divorce is worse than what the adult is experiencing in many cases. I am not a professional counselor or therapist. All my case study is from small recovery and support groups as well as one on one spiritual direction with those who suffer from the effects of divorce.
With that said, I too have a daughter who suffered great loss. I know what I put my own daughter through at a young age with my failed relationships. I am not trying to guilt anyone out here, but I am attempting to bring light to the needs of the children of divorce. The children can't "move on" they love both parents and are caught in the middle of the adults trying to create their new lives. Custody battles, 50/50 placements, name calling, bashing your ex, are all things used by the adults who are in the process of creating their individual new-normal and the children are tossed about like bargaining chips. I'm one of the fortunate ones because my daughter's father abandoned us. Abandonment lucky? Yes, she never had to go back and forth between houses, she never had to hear harsh words about each of her parents, or live through arguments and shared holidays. We also lived without child support, but that's another story.
Each adult has his or her own story. And I have never heard a story where only one is at fault in the failure of the relationship. And, I have never known nor heard of a marriage that ends because the children are at fault. The children suffer the most. If mom and dad are feeling sad and lonely, so is the child. Now imagine not knowing exactly what those feelings are and why you are having them. How can you express a feeling that is probably scary and something you have felt for the first time in your young life? If dad can leave us will mom eventually leave us too? Or, if my mom can leave my dad and say that she doesn't love him anymore, does that mean she will stop loving me? These are very difficult and very real feelings children of divorce face.
One parent in a recent support group expressed that her son thought none of his friends would like him anymore because he thought that he was the only kid in school who had parents getting a divorce. Once he told a friend or two he found out that he was not alone, but that there are many kids in his school whose parents are divorced. Kids don't read divorce statistics because it's not in their daily dialog, nor should it be. Another parent shared that one of the greatest difficulties of divorce is the feeling of being emotionally drained, and filled with grief, hurt and a myriad of other feelings that she couldn't focus on what the children were going through.
As a parent what do you do? You give your children a listening ear. Say you are sorry, a lot, and don't make excuses for your behavior. Own the pain, so that the family can heal together. By all means, please, please do not trash your ex in front of the children! This never brings anything positive to your relationship with your children and will only pit them against either yourself and/or your ex partner. It's never healthy to trash someone who is 50% of your children's biology and life. Seek some kind of family counseling. Allowing a place for your children and yourself to tell your stories will lessen the pain over time. I can't express enough how important it is to listen to your children without trying to fix or do anything to make them feel better. (especially through material things) Listen, listen, listen to your children. Love your children where they are at, and love them through their pain.
About the author:Tanya M. Hielke, CSG - Tanya is a wife, mother, and grandmother. She facilitates divorce recovery and support groups in her local communities, is a trainer for those who is also a spiritual guide. Tanya spent 21 years in the corporate world as a trainer traveling extensively before spending the past 17 years working in youth ministry, religious education, adult religious ed, spirituality facilitator and most recently working in the field of divorce recovery. It is her passion to walk with those who need to heal from broken relationships.