This was such a terrifying question to me initially because I didn't feel that I could ever explain the situation well enough to really have the kids understand. Keep in mind my kids were 6yrs and 3yrs old when their dad and I separated.
I spent a ton of time, as my marriage was ending and during the first year or more after we moved apart, being paralyzed by this immensely terrifying fear and doom, where I thought that by separating, our kids were now officially damaged beyond repair and essentially ruined BUT at the same time wishing and hoping and praying that they would completely and always be happy through it all. Like the slightest tear was a sign of my complete failure as a mother and needed to be wiped away and replaced with a smile as quickly as possible.
My marriage ending was my cross to bear for eternity. I was a shitty mom because my kids were grieving the family unit they’d known since birth. My failure in a marriage had caused them pain. There was no way they could turn out well-adjusted after this mess! This was my day to day self-talk. I was so sure of these perceived truths for so long.
Until one day.
I realized I was simply utterly exhausted with this hopelessness.
And that was my turning point. My point of Grace.
I gave myself permission to put down the cross.
I realized that my kids will grow up to be empathetic, well adjusted, and resilient because they’ve gone through rougher times. They just need help working through their feelings. And time. To trust in the new family unit, one where they have two family homes.
They don’t need to be saved from pain. It is not my responsibility to shelter them from life’s struggles. It is my job to give them the tools to get through life.
Ah! Some of my optimism was returning – thank god!!
What an important realization, this change in perspective changed everything for me! Suddenly, the world looked more hopeful and I could stop hammering myself with guilt and shame. And finally I could get back to being an engaged parent!
And so inevitably when you’re talking with your kids about your Separation/Divorce, they have questions about you and your ex and why you can’t all live together anymore. I remember telling them that their dad and I don’t love each other in the same way anymore. The way two people in a marriage are meant to love each other. We love each other as parents and we love our kids so, so very much. And I affirmed to them, that the Love between a parent and a child is there forever and will never change. But that sometimes adult love changes.
Around the same time, I also read a really great book called ‘Parenting through Crisis’ by Barbara Coloroso, my favourite part of the book is this excerpt:
Children are resilient and they need our time, affection and sense of optimism – as well as the six critical life messages – every day during this time of chaos and loss. Those messages are:
I hope my kids heard these messages, which probably come through louder now than they did in those really early days after our separation – it’s terribly hard when you’re struggling with your own feelings about everything, to be the best parent you can be, you’re just trying to keep the basics going. But it’s something to aim for, even as a general message your kids hear throughout their childhood.
Good luck with your journey – I know you can handle this!
PS. This post was inspired by a question from one of our community members - send in topics you'd like to see discussed in a future post! :)
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