Make Divorce About The Kids, Not You!

Divorce is an ugly business. Anyone who has been through it will testify to the emotional turmoil associated with it. Even the one who instigated the proceedings can be very badly affected by the process. Apart from the emotional issues, there is the legal and mediation process to deal with. No-one is quite the same after such an experience. When kids are involved at whatever age, the issues can become compounded and extremely complicated. Often in the maelstrom of emotions, the children are sometimes forgotten. How children are treated during the period before and after divorce will determine how well they will adapt to their new situation. A situation that is no fault of theirs and has been thrust upon them.

We have to say at this point that kids are always affected by a divorce, no matter how much care the parents take. The trauma of dealing with the fallout can be devastating for children and some will find it extremely hard to cope. Generally, the younger they are, the better but even in this case, every care should be taken with the process. However, what the parents do and don’t do will have a great effect on how kids get through this difficult period. Unfortunately, as one or both parents are normally struggling themselves, the children sometimes get forgotten to an extent and we mustn’t forget, there are also those parents who will use the children to gain revenge on their partner. As a therapist,I have come across the wide spectrum of behaviour around divorce from  the very functional to the downright self centred. Let’s look at where it often  goes wrong.

Using the kids to connect with ex. I see this often especially if one partner us struggling with the separation. They use any excuse possible to contact the ex or even visit them because of something to do with the children. Children respond best in these circumstances where clearly defined structures and boundaries are in place. That means when visiting one parent, there is no contact with the other unless a real emergency takes place.

Using the kids to get revenge on the ex. That sarcastic comment placed here or there or direct criticism through to arranging visits and not delivering. There is a wide range of methods that the discarded and “discarder” can use to make life difficult for the other. This happens very often. Talking down the ex, commenting on what they did or didn’t do and all in front of the children. Arranging visits and never turning up, not being there for handovers, holding financial support back. The list goes on. As parents involved in divorce, the adults have to find a functional way to co-parent. Otherwise, it is clear the kids will suffer.

Failure to provide functional frameworks. After divorce and separation,  children have severe issues dealing with their new situation. At the same time, their parents are doing the same. However, it is imperative that a secure framework is built for them in both of their new homes. One is their home and the other is their home from home. Children will often suffer from separation anxiety when away from the other parent, will often become tearful and difficult for a few hours or even longer. It is essential that they are made to feel secure going through this. Difficult if the parent is also feeling insecure. However, what it says is that if you have issues, you need to seek help and support. Your children deserve this and will be better off in the long run.

Rushing a new partner into children’s lives. Another common occurrence and one that can be destructive in a number of ways. Firstly, older children will naturally feel an affinity with their parent and will often reject a new partner because they feel they have to. Younger children will find this easier. That said, there is never an optimum time for this and the children’s best interests should guide the process. One thing to keep in mind is that it is probably best to wait until the relationship is established before introducing the children into it. Additionally, time spent building a new relationship is demanding and often comes at the expense of the children.

Behaviour in front of kids. As we have said, divorce is an ugly business and this can spill over into all aspects of the parents lives and subsequently to the children. This happens by phone, text and in person during handovers, etc. It brings emotions to the boil and can have an adverse effect on the environment around the children. I always advise my clients to set up a new mail account to correspond with their ex. This can be looked at periodically and responses thought out. That leaves phone contact for emergencies only.

Failure to move on. We must never forget that divorce is one of the most stressful events that anyone can go through. That said, if children are involved, one must face it and solve issues effectively. Many parents find this hard (understandably) and it takes time to move onto a place of function. However, if the kids come first, everything and anything must be done to get to that place. Therapy, self help and growth, acceptance work can all help.

Additionally, here are some ways that children can be helped with divorce :

Encourage honesty. …

Help them put their feelings into words. …

Legitimize their feelings. …

Offer support. …

Keep yourself healthy. …

Keep the details in check. …

Get help.

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Dr. Nicholas Jenner

Dr. Nicholas Jenner is a counseling psychotherapist in online private practice working with individuals, couples and groups, dealing with codependency issues, severe depression, bipolar, personality disorders, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders and other mental health issues. He has been practicing online for many years and recognized early that online therapy was a convenient method for people to meet their therapist. Working outside the box, he goes that extra mile to make sure clients have access to help between sessions, something that is greatly appreciated. He also gives part of his spare time up to mentor psychology students in a university setting.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Anita Banu

    This is what I went through age 4

    1. Thank you for commenting. I am sorry to hear that you went through this at such a young age.