I’m speaking from first-hand ‘kid’ experience; the children of unhappy separations learn a lot of lessons from an early age.
They learn that nothing in life is stable; that love can change; life can change in a moment; people do leave; and be careful who you rely on. All these lessons are carried into adult relationships. Here are just a few experiences that only children of divorce will know about.
1) Sometimes school is better than home even if you are the only one who likes going to school
Who would have thought a kid would be keen to go to school? But at school, you don’t have to think about the drama playing out at home. No-one knows what’s going on between your parents. You can just be a kid, hang with your friends, not get questioned about the other parent. From 9am to 3pm it is a sanctuary.
2) No matter how much you pray, you won’t get signed up by a TV or movie scout and be taken away to make movies or TV shows, be schooled in your trailer and not have to go home until you’re at legal age to leave
Watching all those other happy kids and families on TV or hoping you’ll have to go away for large periods of time and hang with other happy people is not going to happen. It is what it is… this is your new life now… one with parents in different houses and often not speaking to each other.
3) Don’t talk to one parent about any good times you have had with the other parent
You learn fast not to say you had a great time while visiting the other parent or that at Dad’s we were allowed to have Coco Pops for breakfast, and at Mum’s we can do this or that. You learn to just shrug and say “it was okay”. And don’t ever saying anything really positive about the new partner – ever!
4) It’s my fault; if only…
Kids often feel an element of guilt about their own involvement. Did I ask for a dog too many times? If I’d been a better kid would they still be together? Would they be happier if they didn’t have me and then never have to deal with each other again? Is there a chance they could reconcile? Could I make that happen?
5) Major occasions are a potential nightmare
For the rest of your life, unless your parents get on well, major occasions are a nightmare. Weddings (the worst), major birthdays, baby christenings, all conducted with warring sides divided and hoping that it remains a happy occasion.
Tips for separated parents
- Please be kind to each other, even it is only a front for the kids. You loved each other once enough to commit and have the kids!
- Please remember that your kids love you both and want to go on loving you both;
- Please don’t ask your kids 20 questions under a spotlight each time they return from staying with the other parent; and don’t give them the cold treatment if you don’t like their answers;
- An inclusive mixed family is a wonderful and generous thing. There’s room for the new partners… after all they have to like your kids too;
- Forget about yourself at special occasions and focus on the subject. It’s not about you and how you feel!
- The child will one day be an adult and will take all the lessons learned into their relationships. Help them to be accepting, loving, trusting adults, even if you’ve been completely done over!
Have you had any experience or thoughts in this area that you can share?
After studying English Literature and Communications at universities in Queensland, Helen Goltz has worked as a journalist, producer and marketer in print, TV, radio and public relations. She was born in Toowoomba and has made her home in Brisbane. Helen is the author of eight books and is published by Clan Destine Press and Atlas Productions. She is the original founder of She Brisbane.