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Monday, April 14, 2008

Dear Mom

Dear Mom,

I would love your views on separation/divorce and the reason I say that is ~ I have a girlfriend that is going through it and she is dragging the kids into it and the more I tell her to stop the more she seems to ignore my advice.

Concerned Friend

Dear Friend,

Your friend is traveling down a rocky path that leads to resentment and discord between herself and her children. Regardless of the cause of the divorce, unless the other party was abusive to the children, the relationship with the other parent should be maintained and nurtured.

It is not an easy task to watch your child maintain a relationship with the other parent when you yourself feel like you were mistreated and injured in some way. However, your issues with your spouse are exactly that: YOURS!

Children love their mothers. Children also love their fathers. This love is not likely to change and trying to force a child to choose one over the other causes undue stress. The only result of this form of manipulation is anger and frustration from your child.

While it is understandable that a parent wants validation and acceptance of a divorce, a child is not the person to seek that validation from. Children often are too young to fully understand the causes and justifications for divorce. More often than not, children feel as if they were the cause of the divorce and are encumbered with a great deal of guilt from the day you tell them about the impending changes.

So, what can be done to change the errant ways of your dear friend? Perhaps nothing.

Some people simply refuse to override their own needs for the sake of their children. Many divorced parents go through life hating each other so much and recognizing that the only real ammunition they have against each other is the affection of their children. They view that affection as the ultimate goal because to be the favored parent means that they are not viewed as the guilty parent. Yet divorces are rarely caused by one event or even one spouse. While there may have been a final event, there are usually a series of occurrences that build up to the divorce. Recognizing the role one played in the demise of the marriage means taking some level of responsibility for the fatal end. People rarely enjoy accepting blame or acknowledging fault, particularly where divorce is involved.

It is my opinion that your friend needs to embark on family counseling to learn successful and healthy techniques for interacting with her children and her ex-spouse. Co-parenting is vital to the well being of these children who have unwillingly been encumbered in the midst of a angry and messy divorce. It is not an easy lesson to learn, but one that is better learned now before any more damage is done.

In lieu of counseling, your friend should begin reading about how her actions affect her children. Perhaps if she realizes just how hurtful this type of behavior is for her children then she will be willing to make vital changes. Mothers generally prefer to have happy children and usually avoid intentionally inflicting pain on their own kids so this may work for her.

Below are a few resources that you may find helpful. Provide this information to your friend and then understand that she has to take responsibility for her own actions. You can not change her, nor can you direct her decisions. Some people simply have to learn hard lessons the hard way. Years from now when her children resent her for her manipulations, refrain from telling her that you warned her.

Your local library will also have books on helping a child deal with divorce.


Liss said...

Difficult topic. I have been divorced now for almost 5 years. At the start it is hard as there is some sort of grieving process that takes place. This happens even if you no long love the other party. She is now looking out onto a world she never expected she would face. She is now with out partner and alone, very scary for some people. As a friend, allow her to go though her anger stage but don’t let her dwell there too long. Help her by reinforcing what is good in her life (not just her children) as she probably needs more. Also depending on how long she was married for and how old her kid are she may be discovering she don’t know who she is anymore. When we women get married and have kids we get so busy being wives and mothers and some time lose site of who we are and our own needs. Get her to take up a hobby even if that means you offering to babysit for her once a week. Happy parents make for happy children.

I was never angry at my ex husband but was initially scared of what lay ahead as a single parent. Faced with issued of having to return to work full time to support my children, moving house and the great unknown that lay ahead. I have been working full time for 4 years now, have built a house, which my kids love. Life settles down and there is light at the end of the tunnel. (no man though, need man, must find man!!) She may not take this advice from you if you have not been in this situation but maybe you could reaseach if there are any forums online that out line some positives about divorce. As it is not all bad. Heck if she lived in Australia I would invite her to my 5 year anniversary divorce party and teach her to laugh in the face of adversity.

Humor got me though – how can I be mad at an ex-husband that provided me with so much amusement.

Help her direct her energy from anger to something positive. It won’t be easy as in the end only your friend has the power to redirect her energy to the positive side.

A Nony Mouse said...

Children need both parents, if that is at all possible. While the parents may each feel that the other is evil incarnate, it is still almost always in the child's best interests for both parents to remain civil with each other and to remain involved with the child.

Mom puts it correctly - the issues belong to the divorcing parents, not the child.

Always remember - YOU are the adult and it is YOUR responsibility to act like it. One of the best ways to help your children through a divorce is to be grown-up about the whole thing. Do this by asking yourself - BEFORE you say or do something questionable - if you would tolerate that type of behavior from your children.

SabineM said...

I am a child of a nasty divorce. My mom was so angry at my dad and it was WWIII every time they came within a mile of each other, so every other weekend. My brother and I suffered soo much, I cannot tell you!
Couples DO forget that they differences are between each other and not the kids, and the kids are suffering enough just having their parents separating. Everything that happens between MOm and dad, a child can take it personally, so if the parents drag their kids into their fighting, it can only be more harmful to the children then they can realize!
The problem is, if your friend could step out of her situation for a second and take a look at what she is doing, she wouldn't want to do it. She probably is so angry and hurt at her partner, that she is going in this with blinders. Telling her might help, but she might also get angry with YOU!
The whole thing is sad...
I am not even sure what the right answer is....

Mom said...

Thank you, sabinem. I'm a child of a nasty divorce, too. I don't think parents stop to think about how hard they make it for their children.

Liss said...

There is some good advice here now from both sides of the fence.
I hope this woman can recompose herself and get back on track, starting by reading Mom�s excellent advice.
I also wanted to say (which I forgot to say before) ��What a nice Friend� to care for her and her children�s welfare in this way. It�s not an easy time. I sincerely hope she realizes the damaging effects her behavior can have on her children sooner rather than later.