When my first husband and I separated for the second, and final, time my oldest son was just 7-years-old. My daughter was too young to remember (being 15 months at the time) and this was long before my younger son came along. Our relationship hovered in a state of unrest for two years until we finally decided to make it official. My son had a lot of questions about the divorce -- does this mean you don't love daddy? Will I ever see daddy again? Will you and daddy be friends? I answered his questions honestly and let him know that no matter what, he did not do anything to cause this. I encouraged him to look at the brighter side and told him that the divorce would never change how we felt about him.
Keep reading for the ways I helped my son cope with my divorce.
I showed him why the divorce was not his fault. It is natural for kids to think they must have done something to cause the break-up. The first thing I did was to explain to him the reasons why my marriage to his father was ending. I was honest about it (age appropriate of course) and I also told him how I felt about it. I related my feelings to situations he experienced where he was disappointed, sad, mad, etc. and gave him real examples of the behavior that his dad and I were exhibiting which proved that we needed to be apart. Each example demonstrated to him that it was never his fault or anything that he did to cause the situation.
I showed him what was positive about the divorce. Positive? Yes, that's right -- the divorce had many positives and I made sure he knew exactly what they were. I explained to him how his dad and I had grown apart and wanted to do different things. Because of this, we were mad at each other much of the time. He remembered all the arguments and times where his dad was sleeping on the couch. He could feel the tension between us and I explained to him that he no longer had to live in an environment full of anger and resentment. We could now focus on moving our family forward without all the negativity. A few months after we moved out, my son came to me and said "mommy, I am so happy that you are happy now." This only reinforced that I did the right thing.
I showed him that the divorce would never change how much we love him. I was very concerned about making sure that my son knew how much he was loved. I never wanted him to feel as though the divorce took that away from him. Although his dad was no longer living with us, they maintained regular visits and talked on the phone every day. I continually talked with him about how much we loved him and made sure that he knew he could always count on both of us; whether we were together or not. My ex-husband and I have done a great job of co-parenting our kids and ensuring that they have a constant presence of both their mother and father in their lives. This is one thing that has never been up for debate: the children always come first no matter what.
Although my daughter was very young during the break-up, and has no memory of us being together, she still asked a lot of questions when she was old enough to understand that we used to be a two-parent household. As with my son, I answered her questions honestly and told her that it was never anything her or her brother caused; it was simply a case of two people who no longer worked together towards the same goals, and were happier apart than we were together. When she was about 8-years-old she said to me: "I'm so lucky. I never had to live with parents who were fighting or mad all the time. I've only known a happy mom. I'm thankful for that."
Deciding to get a divorce is never an easy decision. It is one that I struggled with for two years before choosing to make the separation permanent and end my marriage. There are many resources available to help parents work through the fall-out from separation and divorce; to support your children and ensure they remain the priority. The most critical things are making sure they know: 1) the divorce is not their fault, 2) they will always be loved, and 3) happiness lies on the other side.
This post first appeared on The Mommyhood Mentor®
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