Divorcing Parents: Be the Role Model You Want Your Kids To Be
Every decision you make has consequences
According to British blogger, David Bly, “Your children will become what you are; so be what you want them to be.” Think about it: isn’t that some of the best advice anyone can give a parent? It’s especially so when faced with challenging times, such during a divorce.
It’s estimated that 40 percent of our children will experience the divorce of their parents. The outcome is not the same for all children or all families. All children are different and relationship dynamics differ greatly from family to family. That’s why it’s so important for parents facing divorce to understand that every decision they make has consequences that affect their children as well as their own well-being for years and decades to come.
Unfortunately, many parents are short-sighted when it comes to understanding the effects of divorce on their children. They don’t understand that emotional wounds in childhood lead to behaviors in the teen years and decisions in adulthood that were based on several factors related to the divorce. For instance, the following challenges can arise much later in life, long after a child’s parents sign divorce papers.
Lack of power: Did they feel helpless — a victim of the divorce that made them mistrust adults and life in general?
Lack of respect: Did they feel unheard or unimportant as waves of changes took place in their life without anyone caring or asking about their feelings or needs?
Lack of acknowledgment: Did they speak out to share their fears, anger, hurt, guilt or frustration only to find no one heard, and more importantly, no one validated their feelings and anxiety?
As parents, we can’t always fix life to give our children what they want, especially when divorce is looming ahead. But we can be sensitive to our children’s reality and acknowledge that what they’re feeling matters.
We can address issues they bring up or ones we know are creating pain for them with age-appropriate answers and compassion for their plight. They didn’t ask for this, nor are they responsible for the complexities of adult marital problems. You don’t want to turn your children into confidants, friends, or therapists while you’re going through this challenging transition. But you do want to encourage them to share their feelings, voice their opinions and let you know what it’s like for them to be affected by your divorce.
Sometimes making a counselor available to them really helps so they can vent to another adult without fear of consequences. Sometimes letting them talk to their grandparents, a teacher or a friend’s parent can make a positive difference. At all times let them know you’re there for them, want to hear what they have to say, and won’t punish or reprimand them for contradicting your vision of life for your family in the months and years ahead.
Remember, you’re not alone. There are many valuable resources available to you and your children in your community, through local schools and churches, in therapists’ offices and online. When divorce hits your family, take advantage of these resources to help you be what you want your children to be: mature, responsible, compassionate, forgiving, resilient, loving. In this way, you’ll become the role model they can be proud of.