Half of all marriages end in divorce. Feelings of loss, anger, anxiety and loneliness are all common emotions experienced when going through a divorce. While for the parents, the pain of a divorce can feel like an attack on your body, mind and spirit. Children also experience common reactions to divorce and separation and it’s important that the parent does not aggravate those feelings. Parents often tend to make these very common mistakes:
Making your child the messenger
Parents going through a divorce often use their children to communicate to the other parent. This causes additional emotional stress as it forces them to negotiate situations that even the parent could not navigate.
Making your child your therapist
Parents going through a divorce often fall into the trap of sharing details of the divorce or feelings about the other parent with their children. It is important that you realise your role as the parent, maintain boundaries and instead, get somebody on the outside like a therapist or counsellor that you can talk to.
Telling your child what to think
Listen to your children and try and understand them, rather than telling them what to think. As a parent, you don’t have to always have a solution, you just need to hear, understand and accept them.
Interrogating your children
Be careful not to interrogate your children after they return from a weekend with your ex-spouse. Similarly, be careful not to say nothing either. Interrogating the child puts them in the middle, leaving them in an impossible position emotionally, whereas saying nothing, makes them feel as if they must tip-toe around the experience. Treat the conversation around their visit casually, asking them general questions such as what they did and whether they had fun — and then let it go. Be careful not to raise issues unless your child does, and then to answer any questions simply and truthfully.
If you have found yourself reverting to these common mistakes, it’s not too late…
Saying you’re sorry goes a long way. Explain in detail exactly what you’ve done wrong and commit to changing your behaviour. Give your child the permission to correct you when you are falling into these mistakes again.
If you find yourself in a similar situation and in need of support, please feel free to contact Jewish Community Services on 021 462 5520.