“Take a deep breath and let’s start by building awareness around these five common misconceptions about kids and divorce. Because the tricky part of many misconceptions in life is the grain of truth in them.”
Yesterday morning, he came tumbling into the kitchen shouting about something I couldn’t quite understand. He asked for my hand and led me into the living room and pointed at Elmo on the tv. “Lap?,” he said and motioned me to the floor. Then he climbed up, laced both of his hands with both of mine and watched his show with the most content look on his face. He just wanted me there with him.
It had been a rough morning. He’d been up since 5 am again and was already exhausted by 8. He has these dreaded molars cutting through his gums and the beginnings of a seasonal cold coming out his nose. He didn’t sleep well the night before and neither did I. He’s almost 2 and it’s hard on us both. I needed a shower, I needed to pack lunches, I needed to get ready for a work meeting. And my son? He just needed me.
He needed me to slow down, sit on the floor, hold his hand, and look at the world through his eyes for a minute. And I don’t know if your child is 2 or 12 or 22. I don’t know whether they are dealing with the normal woes of toddlerhood or the unprecedented chaos of divorce. But I know they need the same thing too.
So that’s what I’m after today. I want us all to slow down together to try to see life through the eyes of the little ones and big ones you love like I love my sweet Jude.
And I’m glad that you are here. I want to invite you to pull in close again, snuggle up on your couch, and in essence prop your feet up on my coffee table for this one. Grab a mug of coffee with a dollop of compassion for your kids and three heaping scoops for yourself. Looking at life through the eyes of a child of divorce is tender and can be painful at times. The work you are doing right at this moment is hard, but we think that your kids and you, your very self, are worth it. As always, we are advocates for you and your child.
There are several floating thoughts out there about divorce and kids and parenting and broken homes we believe are easy misconceptions that could really be damaging for your child. And so often, if we don’t slow down and see it through their eyes, we miss it every time. For many of you, you will already know these things. For others, it may be brand new information to learn what happens to children after divorce. Whoever you are, wherever you are coming from, you are always welcome here without judgment.
Also, I promise to be gentle and kind but really honest too. Trust isn’t built without authenticity, and we want to earn your trust. And I want you to know there’s a heaping scoop of compassion for each of you and your children and my childhood self and parents in my coffee today as well.
So take a deep breath and let’s start by building awareness around these five common divorce and kids misconceptions today.
Misconception #1 – Kids are resilient and bounce back easily. The divorce won’t even be an issue.
The tricky part of many misconceptions in life is the grain of truth in them. Yes, children are amazingly resilient beings in many ways. We’ll touch on more of that soon. However, it is not built into a child to know how to instantly bounce back from the world-shattering news of their family breaking apart. No parent likes this news, but the divorce process will have an effect on them. Thankfully, you also have the distinct role of helping determine the severity of that effect. We exist to help you step in that gap.
Misconception #2 – This is a one-time event in a child’s life.
Unfortunately, dealing with the effects of parents’ divorce will be a lifetime issue for your kids. Fortunately, however, this is one of the places where I think it is easiest to step inside their world and understand. As the parent, you probably can anticipate ways you’ll deal with this forever. Maybe the way you were treated will leave you questioning your self-esteem for years. Maybe your finances took a huge hit and you aren’t sure when you’ll bounce back. Maybe there will be fear in love or simply just years of processing hurt and mistakes. So it will be with your child. It may be tense at soccer games now and eventually confusing about where to get ready for prom. Eventually, there will be questions in their own relationships and what to write on the wedding invitation. And then, though it’s hard to believe now, your sweet kids will likely be parents themselves and all their childhood will resurface again.
It makes sense if you see it from their little shoes and see it from your own. And it doesn’t make it easy, I know. Refer to the compassion you tossed in your coffee earlier! And remember, you are not alone.
Misconception #3 – The worst part is the divorce itself.
I don’t know your situation and every situation is different. In some cases, the divorce itself can be the worst, sure. But often times? The worst part could be observing the way an unhappy mom and dad treat each other afterward or even in the process of divorcing or separating. If you were to sit down, put your big or little kid in your lap, and see your home life through their eyes, what do you see? Is it tense all the time? Lots of yelling, fighting, emotionally a mess? These things could leave the biggest effects on your kids, even more so than the divorce itself.
If you feel like this is where you may be, then take the time to work on your marriage, for your children! Check out our friends at MarriageHelper.com, they can help!
Misconception #4 – My child reacted well to the news and therefore is totally fine.
Unfortunately, research shows that a child’s reaction at the outset of parental divorce is not predictive of the long-term effects of the divorce. And again, it makes sense, even if we all wish it were true. This is another area where I would love to dive in more with you as questions arise, but the basis is this – anxiety looks different and rears its head in various ways at various times for everyone. Your child may take the news well for days or weeks or sometimes even years before something comes up for them. Or even more likely, they may appear to take it well and hide it from you, the parent who may or may not be struggling, for years. So often, children want to take care of their parents and forget that the roles need not be reversed. Our children need us to keep pressing in, keep asking, keep caring over the whole lifespan, even if they seem okay.
Misconception #5 – This hardship will ruin my child.
Okay, so we’ve touched on some pretty heavy hitters. If you’re coming in unable to set aside that suitcase of guilt you are carrying, you may feel like we just made the load heavier instead of lighter. I know that. Hang with me here. The process of creating awareness in the children from a broken home world is vital for the healing process of said children. It has to be said, even if it is hard to receive. However, here is the good news. Divorce is not a predictor for ruining your child forever. There will be pain and processing and long-lasting effects, sure. But you, my fellow parent, get to make all the difference in the world here. And we hope to get to join you and support you as you do.
In fact, here’s a piece of hope for you. Research shows that university students from families of divorce may actually go to college more equipped with characteristics that help them cope with stressors than their peers from intact marriages. The likelihood is that these children come from a home where building resilient relationships was a focus. (Teaser: We’ll be bringing information on how to create that kind of home in a blog very soon.)
So no, parental separation is not ideal for your child. The damage can be brutal and is often unnoticed for far too long. The key here is us as parents slowing down to see from their view. We simply believe it is vital for the world to learn early how the children are affected so we know from there how to build the happy, healthy life we believe they all deserve.
For today, I encourage you to literally or figuratively let that little love in your life crawl on up in your lap so you can see what they need you to see. My gut says it’ll be worth it.
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