Helping our Children Heal through Divorce/Separation
Moving Past the Pain
Children can show the impacts of divorce/separation in a variety of different ways. Some children will act out in anger. Others may experience sadness. Sometimes our children can withdraw, or at other times they may pretend as if nothing has happened at all. They may have unrealistic hopes about their parents reuniting, or even blame themselves for the dissolution of the family. They may even have all of these experiences, just as we have.
Our children may be viewed as a representation of what has been going on for the past few years. They have endured the divorce/separation just as we have, but in their own way. Perhaps they are still feeling the turmoil, just as we are. It can be intimidating for us to have our children open up to others about their experience of the separation/divorce – even with a counsellor because in some way, it opens us up. We also become vulnerable. The wounds are still fresh and we are still healing. How has our own readiness in moving forward impacted the healing of our children?
The Past is in the Past
We do not envision our lives to turn out this way. We do not plan for a divorce/separation, and it is not a process that within many of us can present their best selves. There are likely instances when we, and/or our ex-partner, have behaved inappropriately. Perhaps we were not the best models for our children at times. Do our children know too little about the divorce/separation, or perhaps they know too much? Do we feel guilty or shameful about some of our parenting practices during the process of divorce/separation? How have these feelings prevented us from moving forward? Have these feelings prevented us from seeking support for our children?
We all heal at a different pace, there is no right or wrong. Our next door neighbors may have processed through their divorce/separation faster than we have. And of course they did, their situation was different than ours. Perhaps they had a space to talk about what had happened? Or maybe they had an agreeable ex-partner? In the same manner, our experience of the divorce/separation is different than our children. Are your children healing at the same rate as you are, or have they been left behind? How would you know? How has the rate of healing impacted your relationship with your children?
There is hope for our children and we can begin by empathizing with their situation. They may not have the same opportunities or unbiased supports to open up about their experience. They may not have the same amount of control over the abrupt changes in their life. They may not feel as comfortable speaking to each parent as they once did. However, if they feel acknowledged and understood, they may begin to heal. Just as we have.
Steven Ngu, MC, is a Registered Provisional Psychologist with College of Alberta Psychologists. He has extensive experience working with children during divorce and separation, as well as many other areas. For more information about Steven, click here to link to his full bio page.