I recently discovered a growing number of kids who are reading and sharing LAADD and I’ve gotta tell you, it’s mind blowing. In most cases they are children whose parents are divorced or split, and as I read their own blogs, at times, quite frankly, I’m brought to tears. Their stories, their perspectives, their lives are, in some cases, rocked to the core by what they are witnessing. Their views of their parents and how they perceive the reasoning behind the choices their parents have made are at times down right chilling.
As a divorced parent, you need to know your children are watching. EVERYTHING. And they understand more than you often give them credit for. At the same time, they see things through the eyes of someone who’s never dealt with the pain that you’ve encountered. All they see is selfishness on the part of their parents. They don’t know the hurt you or your ex are experiencing. Nor could they comprehend it. They’ve never been married. They’ve never experienced some of the things you or I have. They can only judge what they see by what they can relate to and because of that their views can be somewhat skewed. But it is still their perception and it is their reality. What I’ve gathered from reading their own blog entries is that in many cases, they’re not impressed. And more often than not, they are hurting.
Their hurt is deep and shaping the way they view the world and the people around them. Whether or not they see themselves as a reason for the divorce, they still feel abandoned and unimportant. They consider themselves an afterthought. They view themselves as very much on their own. My guess is that part of the reason for this perception is that as single parents we have to be everywhere at once and often turn them away when they are trying to connect. Part of it may be because they see us worried more about our own emotional needs than theirs. In being passed back and forth they likely feel like a hot potato. Even if it isn’t true, in their heads they likely interpret us as saying, “OK, it’s your turn to deal with them.” They feel less like part of the team and more like the ball being tossed back and forth. Regardless of the why, what I’m reading in many cases is an internal emptiness. A dark void that has surrounded them. This void has made them cynical, cold and lost.
I share this with you as a reminder that we need to constantly renew our focus on the emotional and psychological needs of our kids. They didn’t ask to be brought into this scenario. We thrust it upon them. Regardless of who walked out, cheated, abused or initiated the separation, on some level our own choices in life are now directly affecting them. Even if one or both parents are a huge positive, any negative is going to be taken personally. No matter how many times we tell them we love them or want them around, in many cases they see regret in our eyes and ask themselves if part of that regret is having had them. They ask themselves if they are your baggage first and your kid second.
I am so thankful for what I have learned through this journey. Some of it has been gratifying and other parts difficult to swallow. All of it has shaken me to the core. There is so much hurt to go around. So much pain, much of which bubbles under the surface, hidden from public view. It’s all the more reason to do everything we can to stay focused on the positive. To balance the negative and hurt with compassion and understanding. To view ourselves as part of the solution not part of the problem. To put our egos aside and take the high road. To hold our tongues and be aware of the big picture. We choose every day how to react to those around us. Our ex’s, our friends, neighbors, family and yes, our kids. And we have the power to set the tone. It’s not always easy and there is always the potential for misinterpretation, misinformed assumptions, and overreactions. Just stop when you’re at your limit or feel yourself on the verge of completely losing it. Do yourself a favor and remind yourself every day that you are the foundation your kids so desperately need. Know that they need to have a strong sense of belonging to a family. You have so much power to establish the energy of the room and build a healthy, encouraging, environment for their fragile, still developing egos. They want you to be there for them regardless of what they may say. And if you’re not, they will find somewhere else to turn. And often that place can be dark and and incredibly destructive.
There is so much our kids don’t share with us. Perhaps sometimes we purposefully turn a blind eye to it simply because we don’t want to hear it. Maybe we prefer to live in ignorant bliss. But it’s important for us to be aware of their reality. Ignoring it is not the answer. Get it out and address it head on. Some of the conversations are going to be difficult. Some of the things you hear are going to hurt. But remember, you’re the adult. Teach your kid to face the negative head on by constantly being there for them. As a parent, by definition, you’re often the enforcer of rules and bearer of bad news. But let them know you can also provide them with an open forum free from judgement. There are things they’ll want to keep to themselves, but there are things they want to and need to share. But they’ll only do it if you’ll let them and they feel safe in doing it. Do your best to let them know that when needed they can come to you to discuss things. And above all let them know they are the single most important thing in the world to you. They need to know that fact down to their very core.