Do you ever think about divorce from a child’s point of view? As adults, we ponder and agonize about whether or not we want to get a divorce. Then, when we finally make that decision, we either go through the process no worse for the wear, or have battle scars left to deal with the rest of our lives. We think of ourselves and what we are going through. We talk to our family, friends, and anyone else who will listen about how bad it is, even if we were the one to start the divorce. But, do you give thought to your children and how they are dealing with the disruption in their lives?
The disruption caused to the life of a child whose parents are divorcing is huge. It should not be taken lightly. You hear quite often, “The kids are fine, they are happy the fighting has stopped.” Or, “Kids are resilient. They can handle anything.” Oh really? If you can’t handle things, how do you expect a child to do so?
The idea for this article was inspired by a short review I read in the L.A. Times recently about a movie titled, “What Maisie Knew.” It appears to have had a limited release, and is now available in video. Maisie is a six year old girl whose parents (Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan) are entangled in a bitter divorce and even more bitter custody battle. Both parents are wrapped up in their own drama and quickly latch on to new people. In the middle of all of the drama is this poor young girl. The story is given from Maisie’s point of view, the view of a six year old child. It appears the purpose of this movie is not just for entertainment, but also to provoke deep thinking. Without even seeing it, I feel I can recommend it to anyone contemplating, or going through, divorce.
Don’t forget the kids in all the turmoil. Don’t get so wrapped up in what you want that you project your own feelings onto your children. Take the kids to a therapist and let them work out their feelings in a safe environment. As a parent, we like to think that we can fix all of the problems our kids face, but we can’t. When a child is encouraged to speak with a parent who may be the very cause of their pain, or at least part of it, that child will probably tell the parent what they think the parent wants to hear. It’s doubtful the child will be honest for the mere reason they do not want to hurt their parents.
While going through the divorce process, make certain you surround yourself with professionals who are trying to help you and your children move forward, without the battle scars.
By Pamela Edwards-Swift, Certified Family Law Specialist