Ending a relationship can be a difficult and devastating process, but when children are involved, it gets more complicated. When divorcing, the desired outcome is usually to separate physically, financially and mentally. However, parents are ultimately bonded and connected to each other for the rest of their lives, at least through their children, making “moving on” delicate and challenging. Here are a few things I have found to be so important, in my work with couples and individuals going through a divorce, for parents considering a break-up:
They Know. Kids are sponges, soaking in all of the energy, interactions and unconscious communication around them. Trying to hide conflict and bad feelings, only confuses children more, and makes them believe they should hide their feelings and thoughts. Constructive open communication is important in a family, whether together or separated, as it increases trust, safety and self-worth.
You Can’t Run, You Can’t Hide. When a marriage fails, it can be extremely painful, filled with feelings of anger, sadness, fear and shame. It often seems the only option to escape that pain, is to cut out the other partner and have no relationship with them. However, there was, is and always will be a relationship. Whether together or separated, it is important for both parents to work through the dynamics and underlying emotions that create conflict. By defining the relationship you want to have with each other moving forward, you lay the groundwork for a harmonious environment for raising children.
You Matter. Parents often feel enormous pressure to always put their children first, often at the expense of their own needs. However, just like being instructed to put your oxygen mask on first, should they drop down on an airplane, it is equally important to make working through your feelings a priority. No matter what the circumstances, divorce is painful, and only by processing and understanding your feelings, can you help your children sort through theirs.
There is Support. Therapy is for families of all shapes, sizes and configurations. Whether together, separated or divorced, a professional can help you sort through issues and create a structure for effective communication, boundaries and trust. With a little work, it is possible for each member of the family to live “happily ever after”, even after divorce.
I work extensively with couples and individuals considering divorce or currently going through one. I also run a support group for women that meets weekly. Contact me to learn more about how we can work together to help you heal and create the future you want, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author: Stephanie Macadaan
I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Los Angeles. I love working with couples and individuals to find strength, growth and empowerment through their struggles and challenges.