"Are you sad because your Daddy doesn't live with us anymore?" I asked.
"No," he said. "I'm glad Dad's where he is. He yelled at me a lot when he lived with us. But when we were all there in that house..."
He stopped just as he was getting to the real problem. What my son really doesn't like is that we had to move. In the course of the divorce and its aftermath I sold our house. We couldn't afford such a big place anymore. It's something that happens in many families affected by divorce.
Selling that house broke my heart. I hated taking any of my children away from a place where they had friends and security. I hated disappointing them. As the dust settles, my children are slowly accepting this new home along with our new family dynamic. We have changed our routines and, with my husband's absence, our lives have become more peaceful. After the initial shock — of the divorce, move and gradual adjustment — my kids' grades have begun to come up and our home has less anger and blame.
Your family will slowly heal too. Hopefully, my own real-life experiences can help you get there a bit more smoothly. Take my advice:
Set realistic expectations. It's natural to be impatient at times with the slow pace of your family's recovery. But remember you are an adult. You've seen — and perhaps experienced — some of these emotions before. Though you may be going through your first divorce, no doubt you went through other breakups. You know what it is to experience deep sadness. Children don't have this kind of preparation. Remember, our situation is totally different from our kids.
Let your children grieve. They feel the loss of their family unit. Their loss of a sense of stability is at least as great as yours - perhaps greater. But whether you move out or not, your children's world is changing. It's only natural that they need lots of time to adjust.
Each child is different. The sadness will show itself in different ways with different kids. One might act out. The other might have trouble at school. My kids no longer feel as torn as they did when our divorce battle was raging. But my oldest daughter is in college and has still chosen not to forgive her father. Your child may say hurtful things to you, blaming you or your ex for the end of the marriage. It is important to let them get their feelings out. Another child may withdraw or become depressed. All of these feelings are normal. However, if you suspect that your child reaction to the divorce is extreme you should consult a health care professional about therapy.
How they heal is up to you. You will feel guilt about the divorce and how it has impacted your children. Oprah discusses it. Dr. Phil confronts it and again and again we hear: Children suffer from divorce. Lately a competing theory has made some waves: Maybe they don't suffer as much as we think. This theory says that if the parents' relationship is unhealthy, the kids are better off after a divorce. So which is true? No study applies perfectly to every family and no their fits every case. So it depends on you, your ex and your kids.
An excerpt from Seven Secrets to a Successful Divorce by Christina Rowe
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