.Breaking it Down – Divorce & Kids.

The decision to get a divorce is usually an agonizing one. The thought of telling my son about it was initially terrifying. It is disheartening to have to be the bearer of that kind of news, and it was impossible to predict how he will react. I heard from a lot of people that it is never easy to talk to children about this topic. One part was a bit easier: my ex-husband works overseas and was not home a lot, so my son never experienced a “typical father figure” when both parents are home living the daily family life. We separated in January 2018 and my ex has not spoken to or seen his son since May 2018. Time passes. It’s November 2019 and every passing month is more awkward to my son. He doesn’t talk much about his father; almost as he doesn’t know him. Which is sort of true? The other day he asked, “My dad never calls. Why is that?” Here, I will share how I speak to my son about it all; how I explain the divorce and why certain things happened.

  1. I spoke to my son as soon as possible after I have come to a decision. Postponing the talk would haven just given me more time to dread it, and I did not want to lose the trust of my son. Honesty is important. He feels and knows when I am lying. I made some preliminary new living arrangements (but not too much change at once), and explained the situation.
  2. My son understood that mommy and daddy fought a lot and they do not want to fight anymore. This is why mommy and daddy go separate ways rather than staying together. My son knows that the decision was not one-sided and that his father cares about him and loves him. He is just very busy. In reality and behind the scenes: He is the typical cliché: The absent father, who does not pay child support and delays the process by all means. Is it fair that he pays nothing for his son? No. Is it fair that he spends the money on trips to Iceland instead while I struggle and have no income yet? No. Is it fair that I have to pay for my son’s clothes (he grows so quickly!) and his food (he eats so much because he grows so quickly!)? No. Well, guess what? Life is not fair sometimes. Let me be clear: I simply believe it is the ethical obligation of the wealthier spouse to pay child support! Especially when it is settled in the court order. My son does not understand any of this but he wonders why his father never reaches out. I have sole custody and my son never questions why we don’t parent as a team. I guess we never were a team in the first place.
  3. I talked to my son by choosing a time that will not interfere with his normal activities. I made it a place that is familiar and comfortable. This simply shows respect for the things that are important to him and ensures that he will feel comfortable asking questions. I did my part. There are still unanswered questions my son has for his dad, however.
  4. My son is six now and I know that when I spoke to him about the divorce two years ago, he was unlikely to understand what it all means. Now, I explain it in the simplest terms possible. I explained that mommy and daddy will no longer be living together, that we both love him and always will and that he can see his father if he wants to.
  5. I avoid arguing with my ex and I don’t lay blame (anymore). There was a time I did but it has passed. I did a lot of mindful work and evolved. I reached the stage where I actually forgive him. It is okay. I honestly hope he is happy in his life and with his decisions. Instead of feeling angry, I feel relieved.
  6. I have been through a rough time but I avoided expressing anger or bitterness in front of my son. I did express sadness sometimes. This showed my son that it is okay to be sad.
  7. I made it a point to tell my son that the divorce is not his fault. I think when my son was younger, he thought that he is to blame for the divorce, even if he didn’t vocalize it. It is important to reassure him that it has nothing to do with him at all.
  8. I filled him in on everything that has been decided so far. He knows what sole custody means and that I am solely responsible for him. There are challenges of course, too for example how to pick the best school and the best education for him. He is pretty smart. But I am sure I will make the right decision.
  9. I encourage my son to ask questions and I answer them truthfully. I don’t tell him all of the details about why we separated (this will happen when he is older), but it is critically important for me to maintain his trust.
  10. And most importantly, I do not burden him with situations he cannot control. I do not ask him to deal with adult issues that will make him feel helpless.

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