National Child-Centered Divorce Month
I know five couples going through divorce right now. And, in each of those life-changing situations, parents are grappling with both the end of their marriages and how to transition their children to what will surely be a new world.
I’ve been the ear or shoulder during many conversations–and, in some cases, I’ve cried along with my friends.
What I’m certain of is divorce isn’t easy for anyone. Even when it’s the right choice, it’s still hard to break up a family.
Regardless, if you asked to leave, or someone is leaving you, it hurts just the same. A loss is a loss.
However, it’s hard for a lot of parents to truly process their feeling because they’re so concerned about the feelings of their children. The best intentions place the children first, but those plans so often go awry as the divorce unfolds and lives are divvied up.
“For too long our nation has been negligent in recognizing the respect we owe to our children. This is especially true for parents experiencing the challenges of divorce or separation. We’ve all read the headlines and seen the damage inflicted onto children through divorce gone wrong. In July we need to discuss and demonstrate how parents can do it right,” said Rosalind Sedacca, author of “How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children with Love!” and founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network.
She initiated National Child-Centered Divorce Month five years ago to bring attention to children’s emotional needs when parents divorce or separate, according to a statement.
And a child-centered divorce network, she said, includes therapists, attorneys, mediators, coaches, educators, clergy, family, friends and more. It may seem like a large network, but that’s what it often takes to shield children from what can be the negative impacts of divorce, she said.
“We can never overemphasize how dramatically parental decisions about divorce can affect their children – for years – and often for a lifetime,” she said. “Frequently, parents are so caught up in their own drama — in anger, resentment, frustration, grief and other emotions — that they forget their children love both (parents) and in most cases do not want to lose the connection with (either) parent.”
Part of that quote really resonated with me. As I have bluntly told some of my friends: Don’t let it turn into a middle school breakup.
If you find yourself doing things to purposefully be difficult or deliberately make your ex jealous, or begin using your children as pawns, then you need to seek counseling. Those are all signs of either emotional immaturity or struggling through a difficult time.
And those who lose most in such scenarios are the children.
“Your children are innocent victims of your choices. They are also relatively powerless and emotionally fragile. If you love them, think before you act and remember to put their needs first,” Sedacca said.
I get it. Divorces are often messy and painful. Human beings are flawed, and we make poor choices that sometimes hurt those we claim to love most.
And it can be really hard not to react to that pain in negative ways–ways that ultimately rob us of dignity, maturity and grace.
If I’m with a friend spewing venom about an ex, I point out: “You’re not over (him/her) yet. Give yourself time to heal before making choices that will affect your children.”
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received was from a college mentor during a painful breakup. I was pretending like I didn’t care and listed all the reasons I–and everyone else–should never share love with that person.
My mentor told me, “You’re not over it when you’re still angry. You’re over it when you just don’t care.”
And that is truth.
Or, as Elie Wiesel said, “The opposite of love is not hate; it’s indifference.”
So when we act like petulant children, or emotionally-immature teenagers, it becomes very obvious that we still care. We’re not showing the other person how much we don’t want them anymore. We’re sending the opposite message, and we’re sending it in the worst way.
When we’ve been wronged, though, it can be hard to do what’s right. And that’s when we need to shift our focus. That’s when we need to see the faces of the children we love and ask ourselves, “Is this what I would want them to see?”
If the answer is no, if the answer does not guarantee we are acting in the best interest of our children, then it’s time to change our actions.