By Tara Eisenhard
“We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are.” –Anais Nin
Divorce is often a life-consuming event, and it consumes all participants in a different manner.
It’s only natural that we perceive ourselves as playing a certain role in our divorce, and the perception is frequently validated by friends, family and many participating professionals. It’s through this validation that we remain trapped in our own perspective, and therefore make assumptions that others (in particular, those on “our side”) feel the same way. This is where we can get into trouble—especially when parents project their personal feelings onto their children.
Parents often make judgments about their children based on their own filters. If Mom is upset by Dad’s lack of support payments, she’ll likely assume that her children feel slighted and unimportant. In reality, the children are probably oblivious to the monetary aspects of separation, and quality time and communication with Dad is all they need to have faith in their relationship with him.
On the other hand, Dad could find Mom’s strict schedule and rules to be overbearing. He then concludes that his children feel constricted, and he files for full custody so he can provide them with more liberties. In reality, the kids might feel more secure under Mom’s rules and routines- especially during such an uncertain time.
It’s pretty common for divorcing moms and dads to take action in defense of their children. After all, isn’t that what parents are supposed to do? Divorce is a trying time, and many sympathies lie with those who are too young to understand and too small to speak for themselves. Although the intentions are admirable, such actions are often inappropriate. In the example above, if Dad were to gain full custody, would it really be in the best interests of his children? He’d probably end up spending a lot of money and time working toward an unverified goal.
The same goes for parents who assume good grades mean good emotions, and therefore take a hands-off approach with their children. Mom might have moved on with a wonderful new man while her daughter brings home straight As and sings in the choir. Mom believes they are both happy and all is well. Yet, her daughter could quietly be cutting herself in an effort to numb the pain nobody knows about.
It’s imperative that parents stop making assumptions.
Children of all ages experience divorce in a different manner than their parents and different from each other. Before going to bat (or going on your merry way), reach out, communicate and be open to another’s interpretation of events. This place of deep connection is where facts are found, relationships are nurtured and appropriate action steps can be determined. It is from this uncomfortable display of vulnerabilities that healthy evolution can take place.
Tara Eisenhard is the author of The D-Word: Divorce Through a Child’s Eyes and I have a review and giveaway for the book coming up next, so stay tuned!
Tara also writes the blog, Relative Evolutions. She’s a child of divorce as well as an ex-wife and previous partner of a divorced dad. From these life experiences come her beliefs that a marriage shouldn’t survive at the expense of its participants, and families should evolve, not dissolve, through the separation process. Tara considers herself a student of divorce and is passionate about sharing her vision with others.