If you’re here, it is likely that you are experiencing troubles in your marriage, and you are worried that it is affecting your kids. Maybe you are divorced or in the divorce process. Perhaps you are separated, physically or emotionally. Maybe there is no divorce in process or separation occurring, but you and your spouse fight, and you know that it is affecting your children.
Counselors and therapists call it a ‘marital disruption’, but that cold, clinical term hardly captures the complex bundle of emotions that you may be feeling. Things like shame, relief, isolation, freedom, guilt, loss, hope, despair, anger, resentment, soaring or plummeting self-worth, and a combination of hundreds of other emotions. No matter what you are feeling, please know that all of these feelings are normal, and you are not alone.
No matter what has happened in your marriage, we are not here to condemn you.
We are here to provide hope and help for you and your children. We know that when there is an issue happening in the marriage, it is not uncommon for the parents to focus on trying to save the marriage or trying to get through the divorce process. Unintentionally, the children can feel forgotten. The parents don’t mean for this to happen – in their minds, in everything they are doing they are doing it for the well-being of the kids. It may be that they take another job to better provide for their children. It may be that they are trying to get their children into an environment without conflict. Unfortunately, even though the intention is to provide a better world for the children, the children don’t perceive it that way.
Because Mom is trying to provide better financially and has taken a new job, she is never home. The child feels forgotten.
Because the Dad is wanting to make sure that the child is coping well with the divorce process, he puts the child into counseling or a support group for a few hours every weekend that he has custody. The child feels forgotten.
A Mom wants to provide the child with a new family after the divorce, so she begins dating again. Now a few nights a week, the mom is gone. The child feels forgotten.
A Dad feels guilty for what has happened, and he has a hard time understanding his children’s anger towards him. Since he feels unwanted, he cancels his time together with his children. The child feels forgotten.
Parents do not mean for this to happen. If this has happened to you, understand that you are not alone. You care about your children, and you want to do everything you can to help your child have the best future possible.
We want to teach you how to do that in the best way possible.
You have probably been seeking out information about how to help your child. You have probably been reading about risk factors for children of divorce, and fear that your child is not going to have the best future going forward.
About 25% of children of divorce have adjustment problems, some quite serious, but the research shows that about 75% do not. Of course, the divorce still effects and changes your children, but three-quarters of these children learn ways to cope that are not disruptive, which could be a handy skill when they experience other bumps in life.
So, if you are living in a cloud of guilt for messing up your children, perhaps it’s time to shield yourself with the umbrella of hope.
Guilt is only useful to prompt change.
If you are feeling guilt over what your children have lost or how you or your spouse’s actions have been hurtful, then consider specifically what that feeling is about.
For example, if you feel guilt because you had an affair that unraveled your marriage, then a positive use of that guilt would be to apologize to your children (in an age appropriate way) for the hurt they are experiencing because of your action.
If you feel guilt because your own parents also divorced and you’ve repeated the pattern, then forgive yourself and your parents to heal from these past wounds.
But if you are holding on to guilt as a way to punish yourself for what has happened, that only hurts you and your children.
If your guilt is not prompting positive change, it could be a barrier in the relationship between you and your child.
Divorce is a process, not an event.
People talk about divorce like it is an event. “I’m getting a divorce” or “I got a divorce.” But the reality is that divorce is a lengthy process that began before you even realized it.
In the pre-divorce phase, you may have had an escalation of fighting or withdrawal in your house, but those outside the house may not have known anything was wrong. Your children, however, also lived in the house and likely knew something was wrong even if they could not or did not articulate it.
Usually when the legal portion of the divorce happens, it becomes more public, and can directly involve your children. A separation before the official divorce decree happens can last anywhere from a few months or a few years.
The post-divorce phase, in which the family reassembles in new ways, is also part of “the divorce” even though a legal dissolution of the marriage has occurred. You may still have court dates to revise custody and property arrangements, which means that your children will feel like this is all still part of the divorce.
While you may have a document that gives a date for the divorce, it really is a process that could take several years. You and your children will have to adjust to these different phases of the divorce. You will adjust differently than your children will adjust. Additionally, you and your children will react differently in each phase of the divorce process.
That’s a lot of information, and a lot more is coming. Before you read anything else, I wanted you to know that the spirit of this site is to help you help your children, not to add to guilt and fears. It is much more helpful to come alongside you and support you and teach you how to be there for your children in a way that they understand and is best for them. We would love to hear your questions and your situations. Knowing more about what you are dealing with helps us to create better articles, videos, and resources for you to use to help you and your children through this time.