Today is the beginning of another series. In the past I have written a number of series in my blogs. I hope you remember the Top Ten Steps to Co-Parenting or the Seven Beatitudes to Co-Parenting. If you don’t, please go to my archives or you can find the outlines under the Tools for Healing tab at the top of my website. (www.journeythroughdivorce.com)
Have you ever wondered what your children are feeling or what they would want you to know about their experiences of your divorce situation? I know I did. I always wished I could be a fly on the wall when they were with their friends or at a counseling session. Just to have a little window into their world would have given me such insight on how they were doing and what I could do to help them process their pain. Well, for the next few months I am going to try to help you do just that. My new series is called 25 Things Children of Divorce Want Their Parents to Know. Monthly I will be writing about a new topic and at the end of all 25 you will be able to download all them as a .pdf to share with others. I also have rack cards available if you would like to distribute them.
As many of you remember, I have 4 children who are all young adults now. They were anywhere from 2 to 8 when we were going through our divorces. To make this series more relevant I have asked them to share their past experience with you. Hopefully we can learn from their personal experiences, which will encourage us to look at our situations through the eyes of our children and take heart to consider doing things differently. We can all use some fine turning once in awhile. So let’s get started.
The first thing your children want you to know is that:
- We feel responsible for what happened.
This is the most common misconception children have when their parents divorce. They hear you arguing and often times the arguments are centered on them. So it seems easy for them to think since you are arguing about them, if they did or didn’t do something you wouldn’t have anything to argue about. Little do they know, although they may be the topic, it’s not technically them you are arguing about. Co-parenting is hard work. There are almost always 2 ways to see every situation. Many times bitterness or hurt feelings are involved which also causes additional tensions to flair. Unfortunately, arguing is common. And not all arguing is bad. Some times appropriate, controlled tough discussions can be good. Each parent needs to come up with his or her own standards and boundaries and then together you need to form a new way of communicating them.
The goal is to find a way in which the two of you can communicate about difficult situations and find reasonable solutions, which do not include getting the children involved. As you are working your way through this maze, please do all you can to have these conversations away from the children to hear. Don’t forget they are very intuitive and cannot only pick up on verbal conflict but can read your body language just as well. Even your attitude and how you speak to them can indicate when a conflict has taken place.
I think one of the easiest ways our children pick up on our arguments is when they overhear us talking to our friends and family members about things that have happened. There are no two other people in this world that they love more than their mom and dad so it doesn’t take much for their sensitive ears to pick up on something. This is what one of my daughters had to say about this –
“I never actually felt personally responsible for my parents divorce. However I often felt responsible for them fighting and not getting along because most of their fights were about me and my brother. They would fight about who got to spend time with us, what rules should be implemented and things like that. Now that I am older, I realize that those fights were not my fault and that my parents would have fought about something no matter what the subject was. It was their responsibility to learn how to discuss those things in a mature manner, not my responsibility to prevent the fights”
~ Daughter #2
This is a very honest and reflective answer. I recall many times conversations in which we were fighting over schedules and differences in discipline. I have many regrets and my heart breaks to know that they were put in the middle of these circumstances. I think one of the most common reasons we all find ourselves in an argument with the other parents is over a power struggle. It is important to respect each other’s roles in the parenting of your children and allow both parents to have input and respect in the upbringing of your children together. I know, it’s easier said than done. But it’s also a great reminder for all of us who find ourselves in the middle of a battle from time to time.
Stay tuned next month for the 2nd of the Top 25 Things Children of Divorce Want Their Parents to Know when we talk about; Just Because Your Marriage Ended Does Not Mean You Are a Bad Parent.
Blessings to all,