Lets start with a nice positive statistic shall we – couples marrying for the first time have approximately a fifty percent chance of divorcing (as per 2016 USA figures).
Here’s another one – two-thirds of divorces are initiated by women – could this be down to women’s change of expectations (go us independent women!)
And another – following a divorce, children are fifty percent more likely to develop health problems than two parent families.
So now I will show you a picture and would like your thoughts…
I’ve said in many previous posts writing is like my therapy. Now, there are certain things I try to avoid writing about, or at least keeping it general so it’s not too personal. Fortunately for me, not a lot of my friends or family read my posts so in reality I have free rein to let loose right?!
So why this post? I was just told my parents divorce is affecting them and it’s easy for me and my sister because it’s not us…
Wait, let’s back up a little bit – about a year and a half ago I found out my dad had left my mum, and was having an affair for 6 months (I can imagine it was longer but I decided not to ask questions where I didn’t necessary want the answers). After 35 years of marriage, of family life, family trips, family memories that was it. It was all over. Since this, my dad has moved out (basically just down the road from my mum… complicated right?!) and I have since met his girlfriend (I’ve been told saying partner makes it even more awkward). As an adult, going through this has been extremely difficult, especially for someone as stubborn as me who doesn’t like opening up to people about my true feelings (I know lets all feel sorry for my husband who isn’t a mind reader and has dealt with my emotional outbursts every couple of months).
This post isn’t to explain my personal life, or how complicated my family dynamic is now, nor is it for attention, or to get sympathy. I was once told by my friend why should I be upset when people don’t ask how I’m feeling when I’m constantly pretending I’m fine with everything and avoiding these conversations… he had a great point and it was one of the few times where I was speechless! This post is for all the parents out there going through a divorce with adult children (is that a term?!) to maybe have a little understanding of how they might be feeling throughout the turmoil of your lives.
This is to ask that you maybe take a step back, and appreciate you are still the parent in your children’s eyes, and you are still very much responsible for them. And my next statement I write with the upmost appreciation of these horrible situations, but that you both don’t fall down the selfish spiral. There are way too many selfish people in this world, so lets maybe try and decrease this number.
I have a couple of advice points, from a child living through a current divorce, I would appreciate you taking on board – and please feel free to comment. I will accept any advice from people going through similar situation.
1. I’m not your messenger
Too many parents attempt to communicate through their children, which causes undue emotional stress on them and forces them to negotiate a situation their own parents could not handle. Email is an excellent tool nowadays to communicate with your ex-spouse. It allows you to specifically discuss the practicalities of raising your child without detouring into negative areas and opening old wounds. It also provides a recorded message, admissible into court, so parents tend to be more careful when using it.
If you want or need to speak with your ex over the phone or in person, be focused and stay on task, and most important, don’t swallow the bait if he or she descends into anger.
2. … or your therapist
Teenagers like to feel in control, and divorce turns their world upside down. Don’t fall into the trap of sharing divorce details or your angry feelings about your ex with your older kids. Their own anxiety and need for control causes them to be ‘understanding’ of what you’re going through, but you need to be the parent. Get outside help for yourself, get therapy if necessary, and maintain those boundaries. Making your child your cohort is wrong and does them damage. Don’t also put your child in the middle, they shouldn’t have to pick a side.
3. If you have nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything at all…
I won’t make this paragraph long because the point is in the title. With divorce it’s natural to have anger, and hate. But voice that to your friends, or therapist, don’t voice it to your children. A lot of times I remain silent on phone calls because the points I want to raise will cause upset, or cause falling out, families should be sticking together as much as they can. I end up listening most of the time because that seems to be my main role within this dynamic. There is nothing worse then hearing someone you love criticize the other person you love, I can’t change how I feel because of someone else’s opinion. It’s not fair to put someone in that situation.
4. Let’s see it from different perspectives
Many divorced parents reading these tips may recognize mistakes they’ve unintentionally made with their own kids. Is it ever too late to undo emotional fall-out from a nasty split? No, of course not. But you have to recognize that bad things are said when people are in an emotional position, things that they don’t mean. Therefore, you need to either walk away, or accept what’s been said and move on forward together. If you’ve made mistakes, it’s important to do the following:
- Apologize for them. Saying you’re sorry goes a long way with your children
- Explain in detail exactly what you’ve done wrong, and then commit to changing your behavior from that moment on.
- Give your child a safe and specific signal — for example, tell your child to raise his or her hand when you begin criticizing your ex — which serves as a time-out for you, telling you in no uncertain terms you’re doing it again and need to stop immediately. Unfortunately, living in the US and being away from my family members this has proved very difficult!
5. Got the dating bug? Keep it to yourself
So I heard a good way to get over someone is to get under someone else. Anyone else jumped into a rebound relationship just to prove that you are still lovable? Or in hopes you will make your partner jealous? I’m pretty sure we have all been there. I moved to the Isle Of Wight for nearly 2 years just to get over one of my exes – and during this process I completely took advantage of someone who really didn’t deserve that. HOWEVER, it’s a lesson learned – I’m trying to make that a positive motion. There is nothing wrong with being on your own, in fact I think it’s very healthy to love yourself, your company and enjoy your own company before throwing yourself into another relationship.
Time helps to reflect back. It ensures you are not going to waltz into a new relationship which you aren’t ready for.
Now as a child divorcee (my parents technically aren’t divorced yet, just separated) it’s HORRIBLE listening to your mother or father talk about being with other people, or going on dates or being on dating sites. Maybe in a couple of years, but initially its difficult to know about. I don’t speak to my parents about my sexual life, therefore I don’t expect them to tell me about theirs. Some things should be kept private. We are your children, not your best friend.
The saddest thing about this whole experience (unfortunately it’s not over yet) is how the dynamics have changed. I’m no longer the child. I’m the adult trying to keep all the pieces together, trying to keep the peace, trying not to think my husband will be anything like my father and lie to me, and I’m trying to not let this affect me on a day to day basics. So I can truly say, that just because its not me in my mums position, it doesn’t take away the hurt, pain or upset I’ve experienced that my family is no longer the same. Please don’t ever down play how someone else may feel, without taking the time to listen to them. Don’t let a divorce ruin your relationships with your children.