Children of divorce

“Children are like clay; each experience leaves an impression and moulds them into their adult form”.  Adele Cornish

There’s no doubt that children in a blended family often get the blame for making ‘blending’ a turbulent experience. Unhappy children directly influence a household so what should you do about it?

Today I am starting a series on how to help and support your child through the blending process. This week’s tip is based on the following assertion from Dr. Archibald Hart:

“Comprehending life from a child’s point of view is the best training for a parent that anyone can devise. Understanding helps us to set aside judgment. It teaches us the language of love and makes clearer what we must do for our children.”

In other words, if you take time to explore life from your child or stepchild’s perspective, you’ll be better equipped to respond to their behavior with love instead of blame (particularly if they appear to cause havoc). Empathy for your child’s experiences will help you effectively support them and meet their needs. If they feel loved and secure they will be less resistant to your new family structure.

We’re going to begin by looking at what children of divorce have typically witnessed during their parent’s separation. I recently surveyed a group of men and women who are children of divorce, about their experiences. Here’s what a few said they observed:

“It was very nasty and aggressive.”
“Finger pointing, alienation, an expectation to take sides.”
“Anger between my parents.”
“They used me and my brother as emotional pawns….was ALWAYS angry……she took EVERY opportunity to call my father names.”

Here are the feelings they experienced as a child of divorce…

“I was completely shocked, my parents did not fight or show signs of conflict openly so my sister and I really had no clue they were experiencing any difficulties.”

Horror. Devastation. Confusion. Sadness. Scared. Shock. Upset. Guilt.  Turmoil.  Anger at my parents.

“Total confusion/disbelief, abandoned and lost.”

“I felt betrayed and hurt.”

“I just wanted to hide – stay out of the way.”

“Completely lost, unloved and unwanted, I felt sad that my parents weren’t together I felt worried for my Mum, I felt like I didn’t belong to a family anymore, I also felt responsible.”

“An UTTER overload of emotion….I couldn’t vocalize any of it…..”

“Anger, resentment. I felt like I was responsible for the parent who left, because she was left out and less self sufficient than my Dad.” 

“Confusion -I was also very sad, and as my brother and I were asked to choose which parent we wanted to live with, I also felt quite conflicted.”

“I felt insecure like all the adults around me didn’t have a grip on life.  I felt like an observer or fly on the wall.”

Sadness, emptiness and regret.  Tense all the time, on edge,  

“I hated everything but I didn’t know it was due to my parents’ divorce.” 

Please note that many of these feelings were repeated over and over again. 

Don’t make the mistake of thinking just because it’s been a few years since your separation or divorce that your children should be over it.  Many adults who responded to the survey said the pain of their parent’s divorce has remained with them…

Your children have experienced significant loss and need to grieve. 

It’s not uncommon for children to want their parents back together even if one or both parents have since remarried.  Here’s how you can help:

Give your children opportunities to talk about their loss. 

You may not be able to ‘fix’ the situation but show you understand by acknowledging their feelings and give them hope for the future.  Tell your children they are not to blame for their parent’s separation.  Even if you’ve already said this, they will benefit from continued reassurance.  Knowing you understand will help build their trust.

Click here to continue reading Children of Divorce: Part 2