Apr 26, 2022
Through a Child’s Eyes –Part 2 : What Happened Next?
This is Part II of Through a Child’s Eyes. Part I can be found here. Divorcing while having children adds a level of complexity that no one will know and understand until they live through it (which I do not wish on anyone). The first part addressed two simple questions: How did you feel when you first found out your parents were divorcing, and how should parents tell their children they are getting divorced?
Christine Lombardo-Zaun, Esq., an attorney-mediator at Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation, continues her series about divorce though a child’s eyes and talks about what happened next after children learn of their parents’ divorce.
I know it is hard on the parents. They have adult responsibilities such as having to work, pay bills, take care of their children (regardless of their age), and keep it all together while divorcing. It is not easy, and it is understandable that those parents will become emotionally hijacked and overwhelmed, and then end up saying and doing things they do not mean to say or do. All parents who have divorced should read this, even if to pick out one good piece of advice.
I interviewed a few courageous “children” of parents who divorced. These interviewees are young adults, so the word child in this blog is being used generally. In this part I am going to address what happened to the children after the learning of their parents’ divorce. For some people, they think that once the divorce decree arrives, that the skies will clear, and they will be able to finally start over. This is not the case for the children, however, who are left with the damaging effects of that divorce.
Q: How much of your day did you spend thinking about your parents’ divorce?
A: I was in college so, I was trying to figure out to live away from home, hone my time management skills, and develop a schedule as a college student. This was not too bad, because I did not have to live in that environment. I was involved with my college, so I had plenty of distractions to keep my mind occupied. It did hit me hard, though, when I came “home” for holiday breaks. It was not the same house and now I had to split my time trying to visit with each parent.
Q: How did you feel?
A: I was sad that I no longer had a “family” that no longer existed. Everything was different. Sleeping in a new location was strange to me. I felt very disconnected. I felt like I could not relate to my parents who were now starting their new lives. I was not sure where I fit in. I felt like I had no control.
The literature is rich with examples of children who, when they feel out of control, will turn to self-destructive habits such as cutting, or bulimia, or anorexia as a physical coping mechanism.
Q: What did you do to cope with the painful feelings you were experiencing?
A: I spoke to my roommates and friends – who allowed me to rant. I felt I needed to cry on my own, but I realize some kids might feel comfortable crying in front of others. I needed to do this on my own and I did. A lot. I listened to music. I love music and it helped me to calm my mind. Yes, sometimes I played sad music but other times it was just chill music that helped to life my mood. I colored. I colored in either coloring books or mandalas to help me calm my mind. I was asked to seek out the expertise of a licensed therapist, but I was not ready for that. Not all kids will respond to therapists, and I think parents need to understand, that if their kid says no to therapy, it is not that they are saying no to getting help, but it might just not be what they are comfortable with at that time.
As a mediator, I have experienced this first-hand. Some children can benefit from a licensed psychologist dealing with family matters. However, there are other forms of therapeutic relief, and depending on the age of the child, these other forms might be more appropriate. They could include youth groups at church, talking to a priest or minister, talking to relative, or playing outside with friends. I think it is important for the parents to remember that their children did not ask for this divorce. The parents should give the kids appropriate space to work through this.
As a caveat, this is anecdotal advice from young adults who have and are experiencing their parent’s divorce. This does not mean this advice will work for all families. This also comes from young adults, so differing ages of the children might require different strategies. Consult with Alpha Resource Center for more guidance and valuable resources on this delicate topic.
Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation