I’m sure we have all heard the phrase “it takes a village” when it comes to raising children, mainly because it’s entirely too true. As a child of divorced parents, the meaning behind this phrase came into play several times throughout my childhood. I was being raised by my Grandparents, with the help of my Uncles and the steady but limited involvement of my actual parents along with the more distant relatives who I saw during holidays or birthdays. During my younger childhood days, I can honestly say I am blessed at how my family kept the “bad” things away from us, mainly my Father’s drug problem, but other things aside from that. Until I was a teenager and “more aware” of things, I never heard my Grandparents (or my family for that matter) talk badly about the “other side” of the family. When we visited families we were always asked “How’s Nana and Papa? How’s your Dad? How’s your Mom doing?” and vice versa. There was never that pressure of saying the right or wrong thing.
This particular post has been inspired by my youngest siblings and their parents ugly split. Over the course of two years my baby brother and sister have watched things unfold up close and personally, they have been put in the middle, they have heard the wrong things and been scolded for saying the wrong things. I have watched them cry and felt their pain as they grieved the loss of “the way things were”. It’s been difficult for the lot of us to say the least. As many times as I have pleaded and begged their parents to put their feelings aside and try to be civil or talk it out; they just couldn’t in the beginning. My baby brother was fueled by his Father’s heartbreak, he was told things that no ten year old boy really needs to hear about his Mother and that has caused a lot of tension for him when visiting our family. “The other side” for my siblings has been created to be the enemy. ” I don’t want you visiting the other side. I don’t really like the other side of the family.” It is obvious when they first arrive that they are on edge, they aren’t sure how to react because they simply don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
So I am here as a child of divorced parents to tell parents going through a divorce, to SUCK IT UP. I don’t care how messy your divorce is, I don’t care how or why it happened and I don’t need to know the details. I don’t need to hear about how “Dad’s an asshole” or “Your Mother is a whore”. I’m sorry that things ended, but maybe someday you will realize that it was better for all of you. Once you get past the initial feelings, the anger and rage, the depression and heartbreak, you pull up your pants and move on because there’s something a little more important than who did what. And that would be your children.
Here’s what your children need right now:
- A loving, stable and safe environment.
- Chances are the children are staying where they have lived with their family as a whole up until this point, at least for a while. If that’s not the case and they are moving with whatever parent is leaving, they still need that peace. Their home should be their sanctuary, it shouldn’t constantly be filled with negative energy about the other parent or what drama is going on. The children have the right to “get away” from the drama without having to leave their own home. That being said, take your arguments outside or in the basement or somewhere the children AREN’T.
- Age appropriate answers
- Your kids are going to want to know what happened, of course! There’s no easy way to tell your children that you and your spouse are splitting up and when you do tell them, they are going to want to know why. So when your six year old asks you why Daddy is leaving, you aren’t going to tell him “Daddy slept with his secretary”. (Some of you may gasp when I say that, but there are some parents out there who give their kids WAY too many details) You are going to tell your six year old that Mommy and Daddy can’t fix their mistakes right now and they are going to be apart for a little while. Or something along those lines.
- (Probably one of the most important items on this list) Kids involved in a divorce need to have distractions away from what is going on and sometimes it’s best if that distraction doesn’t involve Mom or Dad. Sometimes they need their aunts, uncles or older siblings to take them out for a day and do fun things or have a sleepover. They need the person who isn’t going to pry about how things are with Mom and Dad or ask them if their Dad has a new girlfriend yet.
- They Need their Village
- This one kind of ties in with needing distractions, but most importantly they need their family. They need things to remain as normal as possible and that’s up to you Mom and Dad. The kids need to see their families, they need to be surrounded by them as often as possible, not kept away. That being said, they need to be around the family who is the least biased. Obviously, don’t let the children spend a lot of time with their nosy Grandmother who slut shames their Mom and asks where her new apartment is, but give them the opportunities to be around the people that they need at the time.
I don’t know that anyone going through a divorce will ever read this post, but if they do I am certain they will roll their eyes and shrug off what I am saying. Very similarly to the way my Step-Father’s did when I said these things to him before the split. Divorce is hard on families, but in all honesty it’s harder on the children involved. So it is up to the adults to make the transition as easy as possible for them, because at the end of the day they need both of their parents in some shape or form.
Links to research on divorce by the American Psychological Association: https://www.apa.org/topics/divorce/