• Taking Time to Relax. Sound impossible? It doesn’t have to be. Here’s a good example of how friends and family can be a big help. Let them take the kids for an afternoon or evening or even a couple of hours so that you can have some time to yourself.
• Keeping a Diary. This is a very helpful way to make sense of your experiences, to express emotions and to reflect on how you want to proceed.
• Therapy. A licensed mental health professional, such as a psychologist, social worker or mental health counselor, can provide an excellent opportunity to discuss experiences and raging emotions and help release tension and frustration. A good therapist knows he or she can’t necessarily change what is going on but, by being empathically attuned to your experiences, can provide you with increased emotional strength and help you to come to your own decisions about how you would like to proceed. A good therapist will also help you understand the intricate dynamics that will help address why you chose this person as a spouse, what went wrong in the marriage, and how you can avoid future painful relationships.
Helping Your Children:
What’s It Like for Them?
I remember when my parents divorced. I was seven years old. Neither of my parents fully explained to me why they were divorcing and I was so confused. I assumed it was my fault, it was something I did. I felt so guilty. I spent so many years trying to repair that, trying to get them back together, even though I knew deep down that they really shouldn’t stay married. I just hoped that once they got back together, everything would be all right and I wouldn’t have to feel so guilty anymore. It really affected my self-esteem. I know better now, but it took years.
These are some statements made by young adults about their childhood experiences. Why are children so quick to take the blame?
Children need to see their parents as perfect people, beyond reproach. Their attempts to gain mastery over their world, coupled with their view of parents who are loving and good and who will keep them safe, leave them no room for anything but self-blame. In addition, children often hear parents arguing over child-related issues, which further enforces their view that it is their fault and their responsibility to correct.
It is imperative that you tell children from the outset that the divorce has nothing to do with them, that it was your decision as parents, and it is what you, as parents, think is best for the family.
Children see their parents as a part of themselves. They know it took two parents to create them and, as such, they are a reflection of each parent. From a child’s point of view, when one parent says negative things about the other, that parent is not only maligning the other parent, he or she are maligning the child. As one child implored: “Please don’t say those horrible things about Daddy. When you say those things, I feel you are saying bad things about me too. If you can’t say anything nice about Daddy in front of me, just don’t say anything at all.”
Here are a few Dos and Don’ts to help ensure that children won’t get caught in the middle:
Dos: • Do send a clear message that though you’re getting divorced, you love them and have their best interest in mind. • Do assure them that it is not their fault. • Do tell them that each parent will try their best to have the best possible relationship with the other parent – and mean it. • Do work together with the other parent to develop a visitation schedule that is best for the children. • Do empathize with your children, acknowledging that it is a very difficult time for them but letting them know that there is hope for a better, happier future. • Do get help for your children from an outside non-judgmental party if they feel they need to talk to someone other than their parents. Therapists, rabbis, and school counselors are all possible options. • Do take the high road.
About the Author: Dr. Hindie M. Klein is director of clinical projects for Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services. She is a psychologist/psychoanalyst who maintains a private practice specializing in the treatment of children, adolescents, adults and couples. Dr. Klein can be reached at Hindie_klein@Ohelfamily.org.
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