Feb 29, 2012

Children of Divorced Families

Lest we forget, I feel it is long overdue to remind ourselves of the sinking fact that more than half of all children come from divorced parents. For those who've never been a child of divorce or have children with someone who you are no longer married to, let's take a short trip into the typical mind of such a child...

Mom and Dad don't like each other anymore.
What did I do wrong? How did this happen?
I can't be with them at the same time.
They always talk bad about each other to me and I don't know what to say.
I feel like I have to pick one or the other.
I want to see Dad more than just the weekends.
Mom spends more time with her boyfriend than me.
Why is he/she spending the night at our house all the time?
Dad acts different towards me when his new wife is around. I wish she would leave us alone.
She isn't my mom so why should I listen to her?
Why does she get to have her own things and now I have to share more?
Dad likes his new baby more than he likes me.
I don't want to spend Christmas apart.
I'm not as important as I used to be. My days are over.
I want Mom and Dad back together.

Parents would be lucky to hear these kind of thoughts uttered aloud from their children, but it's more likely that they are too afraid or confused to even be able to pin-point what it is they're really feeling. Still, there are some parents prepare for these kinds of questions and address their children accordingly:

"It's not your fault. We both love you very much."
"I don't want you to feel like you have to choose."
"She lives with us now and you have to respect her because I said so."

But as the saying goes: talk is cheap. The Gordon Model - along with countless other respected studies on parenting - shows that one of the strongest ways to teach a child something is to do so by modeling your behavior. Not only will parents' verbal cues often clash with their behavioral messages (in many contexts), but this type of confusion creates strong distrust among children towards their parents.

Top this off with the average growing pains of parenting, and families will be having one heck of a time trying to create a loving, peaceful and respectful household.

How do children deal with such emotions and how does this affect their behavior? How do parents respond to this and what can be done in terms of  "damage control"?

I recently received an email from one of these parents who seemed to be in the dark about what the real problem was to begin with. Next week, I'll share my response here. In the meantime, what do you think? Please, respond below or start a conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Until next time...

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