The main purpose of this blog is to help Christian women to reclaim their hope (faith in God’s promises), find healing, and learn to live in peace (with boundaries) after divorce. But sometimes our biggest struggle in healing ourselves is helping our children to heal from the shock, heartache, and feelings of abandonment after. They experience everything too. And sometimes they don’t heal as quickly or as easily as we’d like them to.
One of the books I’m reading right now is Parents Who Cheat: How Children and Adults Are Affected When Their Parents Are Unfaithful by Ana Nogales Ph.D.
I’m hoping it will help me gain some insight on some things we’re dealing with. She talks a lot about the emotional consequences for the child when a parent commits adultery (no matter if it’s a one-time act or an ongoing character issue of infidelity). I hope it will help me to help my children in some way either now or in the future.
That’s just what I do. I read and research how to heal myself as well as how to help my children. I want to know everything there is to know, even if my kids aren’t ready to hear it yet. In the meantime, I share what I’ve learned here on my blog.
Seek Help From a Licensed Counselor or Therapist
When I knew my marriage was headed towards divorce (for the final time), my first thought was to get help for my child. I shared about when I saw some big red flags, but I also knew that things would only get worse if I didn’t find a family therapist to guide our now smaller family into healing.
I wasn’t really even worried about myself at that point, but now I understand the importance of healing yourself before trying to help your children. My biggest healing strides started with I found my own abuse recovery therapist that was separate from the family counselor we were all seeing.
We often hear that kids will bounce back after divorce with just a little time. We hear that they will get used to the idea or that they’ll move on quickly. But some kids don’t, and even the ones who seem to be okay often are just hiding their pain behind a mask to not bother anyone. They are dealing with internal chaos but just don’t feel they can share it with others. They often don’t want to burden you because they see all that you’re going through.
The quiet ones are the most frightening, though. They are the ones that end up self-harming someday to deal with their pain.
We really do need to help our children to learn to cope with their feelings and communicate what is going on in their heads. No matter if you child seems fine or not right now, at least introduce them to the idea of talking to a therapist so that when the problems do come out, and for most, they will, you’ll have backup reinforcements to guide you through those difficulties.
What To Expect During Divorce
Expect that they will regress in their development. Bedwetting might surface or resurface. There might be lots of crying, tantrums, or silence depending on how the child responds. Expect they will act out their feelings in all the wrong ways. They may bully others or find the bullies in every part of their life. Older kids may rebel for a time refusing to deal with anything.
They’ll all go through the stages of grief (depending on age), just like you do. They may beg for marriage restoration, as most kids, no matter the circumstances surrounding the divorce, want to see both of their parents under the same roof. They may be angry and frustrated that they aren’t getting their way. Some even blame the innocent parent for not doing more to fix everything. Although, they often feel the divorce was ultimately their fault for not being a good enough kid for the parent who left.
Sometimes kids just don’t know how to deal with all of their feelings. And many take the pain and hurt with them everywhere they go. Yet hiding it from those who may criticize them for it, especially years later.
Don’t Be Easily Manipulated
Older kids will try to manipulate both parents to get their love bought often playing one parent against the other, especially in contentious divorces. Some parents participate in this to “make up for the divorce” to the kids and to win their support and affection.
Kids will figure out who will enable them and their behaviors, and who will not. They may even threaten to leave the primary parent to try to get their way or because they secretly idolize the sinful parent. Don’t fall for any of these tactics. Just keep doing what you’re doing, following the court order, no matter what anyone else says or does. They need at least one healthy parent in their life that is willing to take the heat and be their loving parent through it all.
You can only control you, comforting your kids as best you can, and being consistent, with appropriate, healthy parenting and boundaries to guide them. (More on this in my upcoming book: Divorce Survival Guide.) How your ex-spouse behaves is outside of your control, so let it go.
Help Them Name Their Feelings
Another thing that I did was sign my son up for Divorce Care for Kids (DC4K) at our local church while I was attending the adult class one night a week. Attending a class helps to get your child around other kids who know how they feel. There are instruction times with lessons that include how to put words to their feelings. The group we attended gave us a feelings chart that we hung in the kitchen so that we could name how we were feeling each day (or each hour, if needed).
Don’t have a DC4K near you, then buy a feelings chart and other books below to help talk through everything that they might be feeling. A licensed counselor might also have feelings therapy games he or she can play with your children to help them as well.
Divorce Healing Books for Children
If there was addiction or abuse involved, be honest with your children about this. I do not believe lying to your children or covering up someone else’s sin is ever okay. You don’t have to share details, but age appropriate truth is way better than lying, in my opinion.
When I was growing up things weren’t talked about. How was anyone supposed to learn from past generations mistakes if we weren’t taught differently? My own mother married three different times. I was left to just wonder until my father explained to me what really happened and why they divorced. And then I repeated the generational curse because no one was willing to teach me to have higher standards for myself. Personally, I want to help my children to find lasting marriages instead of falling into the same traps that I did.
We can only do everything in our own power (with help from God) to stop the cycle of divorce and/or abuse. But the final outcome of our children’s life choices doesn’t rest on our shoulders once they are adults.
Abuse (and other) Healing Books for Children/Teens
Books For You to Help Them
Like I said, your healing is equally if not more important than theirs, especially at first. The only way you can help them become healthy adults is by being the best example in their lives. Keep working on your own healing and trust the rest to God.
Also, check out my list of Divorce Healing Resources to help you in your healing.
Another good book that I just read is…. Collateral Damage: Guiding and Protecting Your Child Through the Minefield of Divorce by Dr. John T. Chirban.
It what ways to do you struggle with helping your children to heal after divorce? I know some of you are dealing with losing custody of your child to an abuser. I feel your pain. I’m walking with you and you’re always in my prayers. I pray God works it all out for good.
Many days growing and learning in Him,