Caring mothers do everything possible to protect their children from being hurt by divorce. But it is inevitable that your children will experience the divorce very differently than the way that you experience it. Remember, it is not your job to make your children feel cheerful about the divorce, or to convince them that the divorce was a wise decision. Just listening to your child's complaints means a great deal.
In this exclusive firstwivesworld series, you will learn to see the divorce from your child's perspective. In Part Two, I will discuss some of the outward signs that indicate a youngster may be reacting to the pain of divorce. For now, just be aware that children must work through issues on their own timetables.
Your mission is to find a balance between tolerating your child's point of view without judgment, and empathetically offering your own. A good way to help your children with the process of mourning is by responding to their expressions of loss with understanding.
Here are 3 typical ways that divorce can be painful for children:
1. The loss of the everyday. Children derive their sense of security — and often, their personal identity — from everyday routine. When he leaves "the old house," with the old school, the old neighborhood, pets and other attachments, a child may feel stripped of everything that has been meaningful in life. Your enthusiasm for a fresh start after the divorce can be in sharp contrast to your child's feeling of powerlessness.
2. The loss of parents as they used to be. Here, too, the relief that you may feel at leaving a marriage is not your child's relief. The relationship that your child has had with her father — although, perhaps, from your perspective not ideal — is all she has known. For you, the idea of remarriage may promise the possibility of greater fulfillment in the future. For your child, remarriage poses the problem of total strangers-step-parents, and new siblings — competing with established relationships. While you may feel eager to wipe the slate clean and begin again, your child may not likely share this perspective.
3. The loss of material things. Statistics tell us that divorce is often accompanied by a fall in socioeconomic status for mother and children-so there are often new financial pressures. Sometimes children may have to cope, without complaint, to new restrictions. Of course, as an adult you may see over this momentary hump to greener pastures ahead. But children have less experience with the future. They live "right now" and may have trouble conceptualizing beyond the moment.
These issues may feel very different for a child than for you. Even if the adult viewpoint is more realistic (which, of course, it often may be), showing respect for child's perspective can help soothe the losses the child has experience. Your empathy goes a long way towards easing all of the inevitable hurts that life can inflict.
In the next article in this series I'll discuss Kids Behaving Badly and Other Signs They're Hurting
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