To Divorcing Parents: What Your Children Need You to Know
I was recently asked to write a blog for adult children of divorcing parents. I did that and I think you should read it. However, I thought that this blog was needed too. I am the adult child of divorced parents. I am also a divorced mother of adult children. This is being written both as that child and as a divorced parent.
Without rehashing all of the details of my parents’ divorce, suffice it to say that my siblings and I spent 40 years continuing to be the sympathetic ear and whipping boy for our parents’ divorce. It was unfair to all of us. Dad died five years ago and mom died four years ago. My siblings and I spent 44 years coming to grips with our parents’ failings as parents and finally in the last four years to start healing from all those years of neglect and abuse that we experienced because they could never move past their own pain. Do you want that for your children? I really hope not. I know I don’t want it for my children and grandchildren.
Healing Yourself, Helping Your Children
Here’s what I think you should do instead:
First, get and pay for a good counselor, therapist or life coach. The reason you should pay for it is because it is unfair to expect family and friends to listen to you go on about the pain you feel, and you need to be heard.
Your family and friends do not have the skill set to assist you in working through your anger, sadness, pain, and guilt. You could spend years repeating your pain to anyone who will listen, without ever being able to move on to healing and forgiveness and gratitude. Don’t give me excuses about your finances. This is a necessary expense for the well-being of your entire family, and therefore, well worth every penny. There is a saying among therapists: "Hurt people hurt people." If you don't get the help you need to resolve your own hurt, you will wind up hurting others—perhaps those you love most.
Second, don’t expect your children to side with you. And DON’T ever punish them for wanting to love both of you. Your children were created by two people. They came in to this life programmed to love you both. They are dependent on you for their safety and security. They need to be loved by both parents. Your feeling betrayed or hurt by your spouse does not give you the right to insist on their loyalty to your feelings. Repeat to yourself as needed: my children loving their other parent is not a betrayal of their love for me. Understanding this is a part of being an adult and a parent. You need to seek out a professional or professionals to assist you through your pain. That is NOT your children’s job. If anything, it is your job to help them through their pain, again with the help of a professional if needed.
Signs Your Children Are Suffering
Pressuring your children to take your side may help you to feel validated in the moment, but you are setting your children up for a lifetime of pain. You may be responsible for creating lifelong issues around love, trust, respect, responsibility, emotional integrity, and vulnerability for your children that hinder them in their own future relationships. Do you want that as your legacy?
Even though you are in pain, a lot of pain, you need to look beyond your pain and see how your divorce is affecting your children. Are they withdrawing? Are they acting out? Are they taking on your pain and thinking they have to make things better for you? All of the above are signs that your children are hurting. The best thing you can do for your children is to let them know the divorce is not their fault and get them the help they need to process their own anger, guilt, and pain as victims of the broken marriage. If you are reading this then I trust you want to take a higher path that will allow you and your children to heal and move forward in love and forgiveness. It is up to you.
For resources to help you and your children get the support you need, we invite you to contact our law office.