I was married young at the age of nineteen, and three months later had my oldest daughter. It was nothing and everything I expected at the same time. We were young, married, new parents, and had all the odds against us, and on top of that we had no real examples of what marriage should be. Sadly to say that four years into the marriage, we hit a rough patch, and separated.
Along with this separation I found out I was pregnant with my youngest. Couple all this with a 4 year old trying to understand why mommy and day are not happy together, and you have the perfect cocktail for family therapist stew. Me and my ex-husband finally divorced in 2012, and with it I think my daughter, now 6, feels as if she is divorced as well. I tried to address it as truthfully and forthcoming as I could but the animosity and anger from both my ex and myself, kept us from having few or any civilized interactions in front of the children.
My daughter didn’t deal at all too well with it, because it was so abrupt. There was no warning and we went from a happy family, to two strangers who couldn’t stand to see one another. One approach I tried was therapy, and although I gained some helpful insight on how to help her cope, unless both parties are involved, its not that helpful, and places all the burden on one parent.
After many bed wetting episodes, and nail biting fits, I finally tried to explain to her that mommy and daddy were not together, and that it was not her fault. I then took time to focus on building our bond, and establishing my life as a single parent. Instead of just therapy, I filled our time with activities, and with people who gave her the love and attention she so desperately was lacking and wanted. My experience with divorce was not normal at all. Not only did I have to deal with my oldest missing her father, I had a newborn who didn’t know her father.
My only advice in a perfect world would be for both parents to work together, despite of personal differences to make sure that the children are ok. Listen, and be slow to speak. Understand that the hurt that you feel, and the pain, is often felt double by the child, and the child is often confused and wondering what they did, or didn’t do. Letting the child know that parents sometimes need to be happy alone, or with someone else is a hard pill to swallow, but sometimes the right medicine for an already uncomfortable situation.
My daughter now is a happy, normal, smart, and bright young lady. She has moments where she wonders why dad is not here, or why we are not together, but I truly believe her mind understands, although her heart doesn’t. My youngest was not effected too much, she saw her father for a few months, but has not seen him in an extended amount of time, and now had bonded with my current mate, as well as my oldest daughter. Divorce taught me that marriage is something that is not just between two parties, but between a lot of parties who take comfort and rely on the people in the marriage. The children also take to heart those vows, and often have no input on the decision, but are effected by the outcome as well. Its a hard thing to go through, but with love, patience, and understanding, everyone can make it out.