In a divorce with children, the pain is inevitable, but the additional suffering for the children can be avoided if the parents manage not to cultivate hatred and find a way to manage the relationship with their ex-partner.
Obviously, a divorce creates emotions that are extremely difficult to control. Therefore, it is good for parents to be aware of the importance of not allowing these emotions to control and direct the separation.
Divorce disrupts the life of the entire family in many ways, but the most immediate, and potentially the most damaging, does not stem from divorce itself but from incessant conflict and fighting between parents.
Children are raised in the physical space between the two parents. That is their world, the place where they can grow, the place where they feel safe. But when this space becomes a battlefield, they feel pain that they cannot escape.
LIVING BETWEEN TWO PARENTS AT WAR
“My biggest fear, as a child, was that my parents would meet. On the days when my father came to pick me up in the afternoon, I always tried to be at a friend’s house so that she wouldn’t have to pick me up at my mother’s house. But on Sunday night, the meeting was inevitable my father would take me back to my mother’s house, and they always found some reason to start the fight, explains Lucía, 27 years old.
“One look, one stinging comment, and they both pulled out their long list of complaints and recriminations. And it always ended the same: my mother crying, my father threatening not to come to see me again and both yelling at each other how much they hated each other and how the other had ruined his life. It was unbearable,” says Lucía.
When parents fight, children feel inside the fight. They worry, live in fear, and are more vulnerable to all fears.
It is common for parents, hurt or angry about the separation, to do things to deteriorate the well-being of the ex-partner. Maybe the ex was behaving in a miserable way with them; maybe he left them for someone else.
It is easy to understand the desire for revenge that arises against a person who mistreated us. But, in the son’s eyes, when the father is yelling at his ex-wife, he is yelling at his mother.
Children do not see parents as two people in a partner or ex-partner but as their mother and father. And all children need their parents to be well, healthy and happy, in order to be well.
HELP THEM OVERCOME CRISES
For many children, the divorce of their parents is the first great crisis of their life; therefore, they need them to be a role model and teach them how to deal with a difficult situation. If parents get angry and fight, this is what children will learn to do when faced with problems.
The key for them to “let go” and get over the divorce is for the parents to resolve their problems and “let go” as well. The way is to show them that you can be well again after a crisis and that divorce is not the end of the world.
Ultimately, it is about helping them overcome trauma, teaching them to accept painful life events in a positive way, and growing.
DROP THE COMPLAINT
Another key factor for the well-being of the children is that the parents try to have a good relationship. And, as parents, this often involves doing things that we consider unfair, that we believe are not our own, or that we do not deserve.
But, although it is not easy, we must understand that it is necessary to accept an unfair situation for us in order to protect the children and learn to react differently to the same stimulus.
People often say: “If he behaves this way, I can’t help reacting like that.” But this is false. Growing up involves learning to respond in different ways. If we are aware that, reacting with anger, we harm our children, it will not matter what the other does: we can look for a different answer.
Therefore, stopping the fight depends only on oneself. We cannot change the other; in fact, if we split up, we probably already know this. We cannot justify our actions with the bad actions of the other.
We must not settle in the complaint and accept that we cannot influence what the other does, as well as look for what is within our possibilities to improve the situation: accept that this is our reality, that this is our ex-partner and that this is the challenge that life has given us.
NOT MAKE THEM TAKE SIDES
Another toxic situation for children occurs when they are pressured to take sides. Many people, outraged by the ex’s behavior, tend to complain in front of their children, to criticize the other parent. They think that “children have to know how things are.” But this is another mistake.
For children, it is healthy to have a good relationship with both parents.
For the sake of the children we must try to make them love their father or mother, even if we no longer love them. It is healthy for children to love their parents as they are. That is why it is so positive not to cultivate hatred or anger towards the other parent in the children, not to show them their defects but to try to always see the best.
Anger is cultivated with repetitive thoughts, with fixations on ideas that we do not like, that get bigger and bigger. Like when a group of separated friends get together to rant against their ex-husbands: that if they arrive late with the children, that if they do not get their child support on time, that the money they spend is not enough. They give each other feedback. But it is advisable to stop this escalation, not to encourage it.
We do not want our children to live in a climate of hatred and absorb the bad energy of resentment.
The good way is to be aware, once again, that this anger does not build anything positive, that it only serves to hurt ourselves and to hurt others. We must, therefore, stop cultivating it and connect with the immense pain that lies behind: understand that anger is a superficial reaction and surrender to the pain of separation.
LET’S LEARN ALONG THE WAY HOW NOT TO HARM THEM
Stop blaming ourselves to begin to repair the mere fact that parents are not together is already difficult for children. So let’s try not to make things worse.
Separated parents cannot avoid the pain of divorce, but they can prevent further suffering by working on their pride and unfairness, and by curbing anger and fighting.
If we see that we have made a mistake, let us not blame ourselves. On the contrary, let’s look at what we have done, take note of it to improve and repair, and forgive ourselves.
If, for example, we are installed in anger, let us not make an apology for the reasons we have to be indignant with the other and let us be aware that we must get out of that state for the good of all.
It is true that many times this is difficult, but it is simply a matter of observing the damage that we are causing and trying to change. Ultimately, surpass ourselves for our sake and that of our children.