By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC
Not surprisingly, guilt is often an integral part of the equation for parents coping with divorce. No parent wants their child to have to go through the turmoil of a parental divorce or separation. This is especially true for the parent initiating the divorce. Sometimes the internal battle over whether to move ahead with the divorce can go on for years before the final decision is made.
Complicating matters is the anxiety connected to breaking the divorce news to children and fear of the consequences for each child. Often, parents don’t want to discuss the divorce after the initial conversation. It brings up anxiety about what our children will be saying and reluctance to hear feedback that will produce sadness, anger or guilt in us.
In addition, it may also be difficult to listen to negative comments or complaints due to our need to be the “perfect parent” who doesn’t want to cause pain and emotional turmoil for our child. At times like this it’s not uncommon for a child to take sides, seeing everything one parent does as wrong while everything the other parent does is right. This can easily lead us to feel overly sensitive and defensive – or as parental failures.
Keep in mind that these highly emotional situations become obstacles only when we overreact. This happens when we take our child’s comments too personally. Or we may feel overwhelmed – afraid we cannot handle the challenges ahead. This can lead to assuming we are a “bad” parent who must not make any mistakes. That’s an enormous burden to place upon oneself.
This is the time for parents to develop faith in themselves as loving parents. It’s important to forgive oneself when making mistakes, be less critical of oneself, and take time to think things through to find ways to transform obstacles into manageable challenges.
Here’s some helpful advice for coping with divorce anxiety and guilt:
- No parent is perfect, and that’s okay.
- Every parent makes mistakes, even when doing their very best.
- Divorce is like a death and sometimes the only thing to do is be there for each child with love, compassion and understanding. That’s all.
- A child’s negative comments may simply be an expression of distress and not criticism.
- A child’s blaming their parents may be a defense against feeling overwhelmed and not meant as personal criticism. Instead, it is merely their way of coping.
- Change never happens as quickly as we want. Acceptance and patience will do much to help us through challenging times.
- Be sure to listen attentively to children’s comments, even when they are hard to accept.
- Problems can only be dealt with if allowed to come out in the open. That which is hidden causes most of the trouble.
- Distress is less traumatic when met with love.
- One incident will rarely cause trauma. It is the long-term connection, relationship and track record with children that makes the real difference.
- Learn to be a caring, cooperative co-parent by mastering communication skills, picking your battles and focusing on the children’s needs.
- Keep things in perspective to reduce anxiety and feeling overwhelmed. We can usually cope with most any situation simply because it is just that – one situation. There are few things we face that cannot be fixed, handled and accepted.
- Tomorrow is another day.
By keeping these ideas in mind, parents can temporarily put aside their own feelings of guilt and apprehension and stay focused on the feelings of their children. This will not only benefit each child, but will contribute to each parent’s own self-esteem and coping skills. With this level of self-discipline parents can stay focused and centered, feeling more in control of their life and the future ahead – despite divorce.
* * *
Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Parenting Coach and author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? She is also the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network. To get Rosalind’s free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies For Getting It Right! as well as her international coaching services and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues, visit www.childcentereddivorce.com.
© Rosalind Sedacca All rights reserved.