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Hiding Behind Your Children in Divorce

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Divorce Detox: Separation and divorce are traumatic for the whole family, yet each person will have a unique experience when it comes to dealing with and healing from this life transition. Learning to honor and respect each family member's emotional response to the situation is an important part of moving on in a healthy, adaptive way.

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Divorcing couples with children deal with delicate and painful issues. One of the biggest causes of stress during a separation and divorce is the parents' concern about how divorce will affect their children. The findings about the impact of divorce on children are mixed -- and complicated. The child's age, gender, temperament and relationship with his or her parents are just a few of the variables that make it hard to say how any one child will respond to the news of divorce.

Here are some things to remember when helping your family make the transition:

  • Educate yourself about the impact of divorce on children. Knowledge is empowering, and learning the hard facts about the effects of divorce on children will allow you to respond authentically and rationally to your child's experience. Avoid relying on what you think you know, or what you have heard. Incorrect information will not serve you or your family.
  • Become aware of your own beliefs and ideas about divorce. It is not uncommon for parents to feel that their own experience of divorce equates with their child's. Presuming that your child is devastated because you are, or assuming that your children will be "damaged" by divorce because you were is dangerous and ineffective. Your children will experience the divorce in their own way, with your guidance, nurturing and support. There is no definitive outcome, only self-created experience.
  • Parents can tend to hide behind their children in order to avoid their own pain of divorce. Many divorcing couples with children say things like, "I just worry about the kids; I'm fine" or, "I just want to make sure my kids are OK. I'll deal with my own issues later." Worrying about the children is normal, but not helpful. By obsessively focusing on their kids, divorcing parents are escaping their own devastation. Most of what a parent expresses about their child's emotions about divorce can be found inside the parent as part of their own suffering.
  • The key to a healthy outcome for children of divorce stems from how their parents perceive and experience the divorce. Parents are role models for their children, so asking, "How do I want to move through this experience?" can be helpful. Will it be with honor, integrity and authenticity? Or will the transition be riddled with fear, negativity, bitterness and regret? Parents can learn so much from their children's resilience, open-mindedness and innocence.

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