Divorce can be very hard and also very joyful if you move on to a better life afterwards. No matter how your experience with divorce goes, the fact is there is no single rule book that explains what you should or shouldn't do in divorce. Even further still, there is no single rule book to explain how your children might react to a divorce. I have friends whose children have taken divorce very easily, whereas my child has not.
Knowing this, there are a few things I do as a parent to help get my little one through the process for her sake . . . and mine.
1. The Time Check
I kept asking myself, "It's been X amount of months or years, so why is it still so hard for my child? What can I do differently?"
I've had to realize that much like adults, children grieve in their own time frame. For me, the divorce was a relief as I was the one in the marriage that was not working, but for my child, the divorce meant being split between two people she loved.
I've had to tell myself that it may take her longer to recoup, or perhaps even longer simply because what five-year-old can truly understand relationship dynamics? They can't.
2. Willing to Take It
Moms are often the sole person a child can let his or her frustrations out on without consequence. Since our marriage ended, my girl has taken a lot of her emotions out on both of us, but more often than not, me. At first, I felt very, very injured. I had to learn not to take her frustrations personally and simply be there to work through them and talk to her. She needs a safe person to go to, and since she has no control over her life situation, she has to vent to someone. Let it be me and her dad!
3. Talk to Other Kids of Divorce
In order to get some perspective on what my daughter is going through, I have talked to other kids of divorce to find out their perspective. I have also asked my own daughter how it feels and what I can do to make things easier. I can't fix this "boo-boo," but I know I can have empathy and perspective to help view the world through her eyes.
4. Move Forward
Hands down, one of the best things parents can do for their kids after a divorce is move forward. Dwelling in anger or sadness for too long is a sure-fire way to hold both your kids and yourself back. That sort of anger and pain gets absorbed by your children, though they don't really understand where to direct it or how to interpret it. Your excessive anger or sadness could also be viewed by your children as anger or disappointment towards them.
Plus, even if your ex is not a kind person or someone you can stand anymore, does it benefit your kids to hold on to a vendetta? No. The fact is anger only hurts the holder. It burns you inside. Letting go and moving forward to make a new life for myself and my child has been the single best thing I have done for her.
5. Keeping Her From Any and All Dates
Kids don't need to meet people unless those individuals plan on becoming a serious part of your life. I have and will continue to keep that part of my life separate from her until I find someone worthy of an introduction. I just can't see burdening my child with people that will simply become strangers again in a flash.
6. Try, Try, and Try Again
There are days when life is tough — that goes for all of us. Another thing I do that other single parents can remember to do — even when times are hard or things are difficult with a coparent — is to try, try, and try again! Making an effort to make things better and easier for you and for your kids is a must. It may feel like you're climbing uphill constantly. You may feel like it will never get easier. But no matter what — for yourself and for your babies — don't give up!
7. Letting Go of Guilt
This is the hardest thing I have struggled with since my divorce. I have often felt guilty that my daughter doesn't have her parents together. Guilty she's not growing up in one home. Guilty I don't have the same financial resources as before. Guilty she has to deal with this.
But as guilty as I may sometimes still feel, I know that even though it may take a while for her to understand this, her dad and I made the right choice for her in parting. I know that this is the better situation of the two and that wanting to be happy and loved is not a crime I have committed, but a victory and great life lesson for her to learn. That her mom wants to be happy and will strive hard to make a life she can be happy with.
The guilt can come on so hard sometimes, but giving into guilty feelings will lead you and your kiddos nowhere fast. Instead of feeling guilty, feel focused. Where are you going next? What do you want with your life now?
How can you help your kids adjust? These are the thoughts that are worth investing in.