I've said it before and I'll say it again, "kids aren't stupid" and they are very intuitive. I never saw my parents fight or even raise their voices to each other, but I knew they weren't happy. There was simply a shift in their behavior that didn't seem quite right to me. They didn't seem quite as affectionate as before. I noticed my dad started working longer hours than usual. My mother started taking me on more weekend getaway trips out of town. So what did I do when this started happening? I asked my parents up front "What's going on?"
Now I'm sure most kids aren't like me ... as a matter of fact, I know most kids aren't like me. Most would probably become shy little snails, some would lash out with bad behavior and others might even try hurting themselves because they feel in some strange way that the divorce is their fault. I never had that opportunity because of the forethought of my parents.
At an early age I got involved in the performing arts. I started the drama club at my elementary school because I wanted to be on stage. When my parents started the divorce process they really ramped up my involvement in performing so I was too distracted to see all the rest of the stuff that was going on in the background of my life. As I stated in an earlier article my parents thought out everything they did concerning my upbringing and I see it more now (of course) than I did then. They tried to keep my life as "normal" as possible and I thank them for that. My father and mother took me to rehearsals and helped with fund raising for special events and they attended all my performances, of which there were many. They were both really involved in my life and made me feel secure that I had a strong "family" foundation even though my parents weren't in the same home.
So my advice to you, if you have children and you're going through a divorce: Never forget about your child and how they are feeling and how you can keep their lives as seamless as possible. Many people think, "Oh, kids are resilient and they can bounce back from anything, it's now my time to be free and it's OK that I'm a little selfish right now." I completely disagree. Once you have a child, their life is now your life. You brought this life into the world and you are now responsible for its healthy upbringing. The fact is that you're divorcing, and all the things that come with it should not be placed on your kid's shoulders.
I would also say, never treat them like they are stupid. They know a lot more is going on than you give them credit for. And even if they don't know upfront what is happening, they know there is a shift in what is normally happening around them. They many be like me and ask straight forward, "What the heck is going on?" Others might act out and still others might become introverted. Tell them what is going on every step of the way and let them know they are loved, and the rest will fall into place. Keep them in all the extracurricular activities that they want to be involved in. Not the stuff you want them to do, but they stuff they really have an interest in, and make sure they have a solid foundation to build on. Home should be and feel like a home, even if they have two homes now instead of one.
What has been your experience? If you have not spoken with your kids yet, what do you think that conversation should be like? I'd love to hear your opinions and give advice from my personal experience.