When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts.
A mother always has to think twice:
once for herself and once for her child.Sophia Loren
I’ve often stopped and thought about what it would have felt like for me if my parents had told me they were going to divorce. Even just the immediate emotional reaction inside of me is enough for me to shut down my imagination and block all thoughts of such a thing. Unfortunately for my kids, and for so many children out there, my worst fears became their reality.
My kids were totally blindsided by our divorce. They had no idea how bad things were. I think like most mothers, I shielded them from everything because I didn’t want them to live anything but an easy, carefree life. I felt like I had failed in my job of being a mom for not being able to hold up any longer and keep my marriage together. After all, we are told to stay married for the sake of the children, and I just couldn’t do it.
Early on in the divorce process, I heard a talk that Glennon Doyle made regarding children and adversity. A woman had approached her at a conference and told her she had always wanted to shield her son from pain. She felt she had failed in being a mother because of the pain her son was experiencing in her divorce.
Glennon’s answer was life changing for me. She asked what three things that woman wanted her son to learn in life. The woman’s answer was “I want him to be kind, I want him to be wise, and I want him to be resilient.”
The following is Glennon’s response to that answer.
“Yes,” I said, “so tell me. What does a human have to confront in life in order to earn those characteristics?”
The audience fell silent. The woman stared back at me.
“Pain!” I said. “Struggle. It’s not about having nothing to overcome. It’s overcoming and overcoming and overcoming yet again.
Hearing these words were so huge for me. I NEEDED to hear this. My kids were experiencing HUGE amounts of pain. Not only because of our split, which was a total shock to them, but also because of the behaviour of their father in the aftermath. In fact, they are still walking through struggles and pain with their father, and I don’t anticipate that that will ever truly go away.
I homeschooled my kids for the first year. We had already been homeschooling the previous year with the thought of returning to school, but I kept them home another year because my goal for that first year was just to survive. Fractions be damned, we were going to make it through the day in one piece!
I spent countless hours talking with my kiddos about their emotions and fears and thoughts and misgivings (still do..even the teenage boys…). While knowing they had a safe place to come to with their problems was helpful, I firmly believe kids experiencing their parent’s divorce need outside help too.
As a parent, you need to advocate for your kids. A school counsellor is a wonderful resource. Outside trusted adults like pastors, support workers, family friends, and youth leaders can all be part of your kid’s support team.
On top of all these people though, I believe a professional psychologist who has experience working with families, adoption (in our case, an added piece to the story) and divorce is a must! They need to be able to share their thoughts about both parents, talk about their loyalties, their anger, their fears and their confusion with a professional.
Your kids may tell you they are ok, that they don’t need to talk to anyone. They may be trying to spare your feelings by playing down their own emotions. They see us going though our own pain and they don’t want to add to it. I don’t think we should be content with this.
Big life issues cause big feelings. We need to equip our kids with the tools they need to process and navigate those feelings so they can be successful in their emotional health.
You are not a failure for taking your kids to therapy. It can be uncomfortable because you don’t know what your kids are going to say about you. Let me tell you, I can relate! My youngest child has NO filter! She’s embarrassing enough when I’m right there to explain and monitor, let alone when she’s alone and unguarded!
You may feel judged and defensive. But this should not stop you from seeking the help your kids need. They are the most important thing. Not your reputation or your feelings.
Be encouraged. Your kids can learn to thrive again. They can mature and grow as human beings in ways they never would have before.
They may have to walk though really hard things.
However, if they have a supportive parent(s) by their side, and the supports they need to get through, they will become stronger people because of it.
Photo by skitterphoto on pixels.