Divorce. It is such a harsh word for something that is almost too normal. Divorce happens in about half of marriages in the world. It is frowned upon, but at the same time, it is also a very normal thing in some families. Divorce can be very smooth and straightforward; it can be strictly business and get pretty ugly. It can get even uglier when there are children involved. When the divorce happens, you might immediately think about the couple and how devasting it must be for them. You might even think, “they will be better off,” or “they will be strong through this.” As a Therapist for Young Adults in Atlanta, I wanted to share some ways of supporting your kids through a divorce.
What Divorce Can Look Like to Kids
It usually starts with minor disagreements. Maybe a slammed door here and there. Then, it slowly turns into only having dinner with one parent or constant yelling on the other side of the door. You start to feel more invisible among the sadness and anger coming from two people who used to show so much love. Then, the next thing you know, you are standing in the hall watching one of those people pack a bag, turn to you and say, “none of this is your fault. Mommy and daddy are just not getting along,” and the noise of the front door closing is probably the loudest thing you have heard.
Fear and Confusion
Those moments are some of the scariest and most confusing moments for children that come from divorced parents. Those moments show the real vulnerability of the ones you saw as the strongest people in your life. You might walk in on one of them crying and find that scary. When you’re little, crying usually means something wrong, so why is the person who is supposed to protect me, crying? There is a lot of fear and confusion during this time. Some parents do a good job at hiding those vulnerable moments, and some are doing the best they can while letting those moments show.
If the divorce was simple, there might not be as much pressure to pick a side, but in some cases, the children are in a position that makes them choose a side. Imagine going from seeing your parents together, to having to choose which parent to pick. Sometimes children are not given a choice, and one of the parents makes a choice for them. It also might be a choice that is made subconsciously where the child starts to choose who makes them feel more like themself or makes them feel safe. That sense of safety that you feel being at home. The feeling that you know nothing will happen because you are home.
In the storm of divorce, that feeling can be taken away pretty quickly. That sense of feeling together goes away and usually takes some time and healing to find that again.
As an Atlanta Therapist, here are some ways of Supporting your kids through a Divorce
The first time you spend a holiday without the other parent is a very strange feeling. It’s the feeling of missing something. It’s the feeling of loneliness even though you are surrounded by parts of your family. This is a very hard thing to get past with a divorce, especially when you are young, because you don’t understand. You don’t know why you’re parents are the ones that are not together, why you must spend Christmas without mom or dad, why you can only spend the weekend with dad and not see him until next weekend. It’s a terrible mix of confusion that we just cannot understand.
I feel when my parents went through a divorce, I was very confused and really did not understand what this meant. I think about what children need in those moments when their parents are getting divorced, and it feels like the world is ending.
I feel children need space to talk. They need a safe space to ask questions and have those conversations with their parents about what they are feeling or to ask why? The parent might not have the answer but leaving that open line of communication seems key.
I know this time is just as hard, if not harder for the parents, but I feel spending time with the children and showing them that there is still a place where they can be safe and that is with their parent.
I know not everyone is open to the idea of therapy, BUT I feel children going through a divorce world need a neutral zone where they can talk about their feelings freely without fear or judgement.
I think it is important for parents to give their children some grace in this time. I understand the parents are going through a harder time and I am not putting that in a smaller space, but your children just lost some solid ground in their world they might need some time to adjust to this new life and new feelings that come with that.
Divorce is hard for everyone involved and it is such a sad thing to witness, and I think it is important to shed some light on the children that go through the trauma of a divorced family. A child’s development is so delicate, and the trauma of a divorce can affect the child for a while.
If you would like to speak with an Atlanta Therapist to learn more about supporting your kids through a divorce, contact us today!