My divorce, like many, was pretty messy. Because of this, my kids had a really hard time coping, even though they were really young. My ex and I just couldn’t get along, and quite frankly, it was an explosive situation every time we were in the same room together. We tried to avoid arguing in front of the kids, but many times it just happened. Typically, his alcohol abuse was the culprit for the argument, which typically got out of hand and resulted in physical violence from him.
Even though he enjoyed hitting me, up until that point, he had never put his hands on the kids. Unfortunately, that was all about to change. My ex and I decided that separate houses through the divorce was the best option. The longer we lived together, the worse things got. I agreed, and he moved.
I went to pick up my kids from their dad’s after work one day. He was passed out on the floor with a bottle of alcohol, and the kids were locked in their room. He had apparently installed a slide bolt lock on the door, so they “couldn’t get out an hurt themselves.” He was still passed out when the police arrived, and he was arrested.
Mommy and Daddy Both Love You:
When he was arraigned, he was given a no contact order, and a court order for alcohol rehabilitation that I hoped he would carry out. I did not have it in me to allow the kids to see their father, so I enforced the no contact order to the full extent of the law. Even though he was a drunk, my kids were young and did not realize that what their father had done was wrong. They asked about him all the time.
We started a bedtime ritual where I would ask them, “who loves you?” They would respond with “mommy and daddy do.” They had pictures of him in their room, and they would kiss daddy’s picture every night after story time.
Even though I wanted to avoid counseling, I broke down and decided that they should go anyway. Counseling was a time where they could tell someone they trusted what bothered them the most. I learned quick that even though your kids trust you, they won’t tell you everything. They hide feelings to make themselves feel more grown up, and to give you the emotional support that they feel that you need. Talking to a counselor allowed my kids to open up and express feelings that they tried to hide around me.
It is one thing to hold back information that is not age appropriate, it is completely different to flat out lie to your child. If you don’t want your child to know something, tell them that they are not old enough to understand right now, and that they will understand later. Lying to them only makes you the bad guy. If your ex is spiteful enough, they could clarify the situation and it could backfire in your face.
Tell your kids the truth about what is going on at an age appropriate level. If you are not sure what to tell them, confide in their school counselor, or an outside counselor. They may be able to assist you along the way, or be willing to talk to your child for you on a level that they can understand.