Next Your Direction Workshop, for teenagers and young adults whose parents have separated.

2nd November 2022

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What about the children?

Having children makes the process of divorce and separation much more complicated.  Whereas couples without children can choose to never see or speak to each other again those with children have to build a new collaborative relationship that will help them co-parent whilst dealing with their own and their children’s emotional fall out.  The responsibility of being a parent can also make it much harder to build a new social network for support.  I spoke to Kathy about the realities of divorcing when you have children and this blog entry is the first of a short series looking at the challenges of divorce when you are a parent….

My children were 2.3 years and 11 months when we separated.  My eldest child in particular struggled much more in the early days and used to walk around crying “Daddy gone, Daddy lost”, her behaviour and tantrums were much worse than before and she used to climb into my bed at night and hug me so tightly. She’d always stayed in her own bed up until then.  It was almost like she wanted to check I was still there.  She needed a lot of reassurance.  I couldn’t explain what had happened easily, as she was so young.  I had to keep it simple, in an age appropriate way.  Even now she’s 5 years old, I have stuck to a simple story.  I never speak badly about their Dad to them but help them to make sense of it all, in a way that helps them not to think it’s their fault.

I find both my children as they grow want to talk about what happened and why repeatedly.  It’s almost like they put it all in a box, and then every now and then they get the box out, look at it all, try and understand it in a way that fits with their age and world view, ask new questions to process it and then they tuck the box away again.  And then a few months later they ask again.  This has happened over and over again in the last 3 years.

I do find the old cliché about ‘children being resilient’ rather irritating and it’s usually said by people who haven’t divorced to be honest. My children struggle with the divorce, it’s hard, it’s very hard on them.  Even now. It’s an ongoing process. Play therapy is incredibly helpful for them, or counselling, or even just an Auntie who will listen to them, without judging or speaking badly about the partner who left etc whenever they need to talk.  People shouldn’t under estimate the impact it has on them, nor minimise it.  Just because they seem ok on the outside, doesn’t mean they are.  They need lots of help and support.

Now my daughter is at School she is noticing far more how different our family unit is; she longs for her Dad to live with her too and I regularly have to listen, sympathise with her, hug her and explain why this cannot be.  It makes your heart ache that someone so young, has to grapple with these things. Like a loss of innocence I suppose. No child should have to suffer a family breakdown and it’s so hard to see them struggle.

Read more posts from Kathy here