It was a Sunday afternoon, several months after I had filed for divorce. We were very amicable during the divorce proceedings, which is why it was finalized in six months. I knew that once we told the children about the divorce that Harrison would be the “town crier” and let everyone know. I was ready to answer any questions that came my way.
My memories are always pretty vivid. Not this time. I can’t recall the conversation or what I said to the children exactly. Their dad began talking and I remember Harrison crying. I do remember having a simple, picture social story for Syd. It showed Mommy’s house and Daddy’s house with a lot of happy faces. She responded by ripping the story in half. I wasn’t sure if she was reacting to news of the divorce or not. I would have to work with her therapists about that later. Harrison began asking questions. He said that he thought that people get divorced when there is yelling, screaming or fighting. He said that he never saw us do that and thought we were all happy. He was very concerned about where his dad would live and if we would be okay without him. Because their dad and I worked opposite work schedules, the children were used to being with me for the majority of the time. Maybe that was a blessing in disguise.
For the next several months I kept things as consistent for our family as possible. I didn’t buy them things to make them feel better or mask the pain of divorce. I did my best not to cry in front of the children. But there were times when I couldn’t hold it together. They needed to know that they could mention their dad or to talk to me about what was happening. I’ll never forget the first time that their dad took them for the day. All of these Lifetime movie visions were going through my head. Is he going to kidnap them and take them to Canada? Where exactly is he taking them? Will he bring them back on time? Now deep down I knew that my children were safe. I was just a hot mess at the time.
The emotional pain of a divorce may affect all aspects of a child’s life. I made sure to contact the schools to inform them. I wanted to be aware of any changes in their behavior or academics. I immediately started family therapy which helped and I prayed constantly. Whenever their dad wanted to talk with them he would call me. I had to remove myself from the equation. I bought Harrison an Iphone, so that he could talk/text his dad whenever he needed to. Sydney had her Ipad, so he could facetime her. She also enjoyed typing messages to him. Most of her texts were about him buying her Disney Princess toys. But at least she was communicating with him.
I will be very honest. It took a lot of grace and self control not to talk negatively about their dad in front of them. Their dad is free to see them anytime he wants to and they know that. God forbid you are faced with having this discussion with your children. But if you must, here are a few things to remember.
- Don’t give your children false hope that the divorce is a temporary situation.
- Encourage them to communicate. They must feel comfortable and that their feelings are valued.
- Be aware of possible defiance/behavior challenges as they process the reality of divorce.
- Remind your children that they are loved by both parents.
- Stress to them that they did not cause the divorce and it is not their fault.
- It won’t be easy. But once the healing process begins you will be glad.
I can share this story with the world now without tears, bitterness or anger in my soul. I am at peace with where my life is right now. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for our family. I’m raising a kinder, gentler family.
Our future’s so bright, we’ve got to wear shades.