One of the worst things about divorce is the effect is has on your kids. You change the trajectory of their lives. In our case, we pulled our daughter from a safe home environment, and shoved her into a place where she’s shuffled around from state to state. From the moment I knew divorce was imminent, my number one priority has been protecting my daughter.
I fought hard to keep the changes in her environment as minimal as possible so she could feel safe and secure during the unsafe and unsecure chaos that comes with splitting a household in two. In the process, I delayed my own moving forward so I could focus solely on her and her needs.
At the urging of a friend who worked in education, I notified all her teachers at school and in her outside activities, as well as her principal. I most likely would have wanted to keep it private, but I do feel it turned out to be beneficial.
The teacher she had the year of the separation wasn’t the best, but the teacher she had the following year, while we were finalizing our divorce and adjusting to our new way of being, was amazing. As was her principal. They were very supportive and caring towards her, so when she ended up in the nurse’s office with a stomach ache three days a week, we all knew why.
I like to think that what I did helped her, but I guess time will tell. I don’t want to go into detail about her journey, as it’s her story, not mine, but I do think allowing her the extra time to process and get used to her new way of life helped. She did great through it all; better than I could have expected. As all the professionals told us, kids are resilient, and they are, but childhood trauma bleeds into adulthood.
I chose to move to my home state to be closer to my family. We ended up where we were for my ex-husband’s job, and now that that was no longer my priority, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. It was a decision I struggled with, but in the end, I knew I would be happier; therefore, she would be happier.
She handled the move well, but recently she’s been having a few troubles. She got in the car one day after school holding a pamphlet – My Parents are Divorcing, What Now? I didn’t know she was having issues, so I laughed and said it was a little late for that particular pamphlet and did they have one that said, My Parents are Divorced, What Now?
She didn’t appreciate my joke. When we got home, I asked her if she wanted me to go through the pamphlet with her. She said no, she wanted to read it herself. I asked her to point out the top two things that stood out the most to her. She chose feeling resentful that she has to shuttle back and forth between her parents, and packing her stuff to go away with her dad for the weekend.
I knew the second one was bothering her as she waits until the last possible second to pack her bag. A fancy new suitcase for her birthday didn’t seem to help either. But I naively thought she was doing well with the once a month weekend away.
Something that was suggested in the pamphlet that did not work, was reading an age appropriate book about divorce. We chose Judy Blume’s It’s Not the End of the World, discussing each chapter so I could answer any questions she had. The book just seemed to make her more sad.
We’ve tried lots of things throughout this process. Some things have worked, while others have not.
- Keeping her routine as normal as possible, while throwing in a little fun on a random Tuesday
- Painting or drawing. Art seems to be cathartic for her.
- Listening to her favorite music
- Taking walks
- Riding her bike
Divorce sucks for everyone involved, but in the end, I know I gave my daughter everything I have to make sure it’s been as painless as possible for her. As hard as I’ve tried, though, I still think she’s going to need a shit ton of therapy.
And I’ve learned that while I’m a mom, I’m so much more than that, so I can’t help but wonder what I’ve given up for myself in the process. It’s a no-win situation, but all you can do is go through a little trial and error to figure out what works for your family. And drink wine. And have faith that what is supposed to happen, will happen. And it’s not the end of the world.