The following quote resonates with me, and defines how I approach my child custody and divorce mediation work:
While we try to teach our CHILDREN
all about LIFE
Our CHILDREN teach us
what LIFE is all about
by, Angela Schwindt
When I reflect on this quote, and my work with child custody matters and the development of parenting plans, I think it opens a new lens into how a divorce can and IS seen - the new lens is through the eyes of our children.
Children are curious about what is happening when their parents are going through a divorce. Their curiosity is age dependent. Levels of understanding, comprehension and thought processes are certainly age dependent. I find, however, that the levels of emotional fallout from a divorce are somewhat universal with children. Children see, hear and feel what is going on in their home and between their parents - sometimes it is palpable and it is always frightening.
If parents tune in to this emotional energy, and view the divorce through the eyes and ears of their children, I think parents can start working together, from the very beginning, to create an environment for their children to thrive, while they are going through their divorce.
Children teach parents to be careful about how much information is shared with them. Consideration of the age and emotional and physical development of each child must be considered. There is so much research available to parents in this area. Studies have been done with children by using interviews with older children and snippets of conversations with younger children during play therapy. As a result, a wealth of information has been published by the researchers in this one particular area. Resoundingly, the lesson learned is simple, give thought beforehand and think about what and how much information will be shared with your children.
Children teach parents to remember that they view themselves as part of both parents, not just one parent. Research shows that when children hear that one of their parents is "bad" or "awful" or "selfish" their thought process might be this: "I" am bad, "I" am awful or "I" am selfish. While this may not be expressed by children, again, if you believe all the research, and really think about it, it makes sense. Children might not be able to use analytical skills to reach a different conclusion. Children might be too young, or too embarrassed, to talk about their thought processes with anyone outside of their parents. Without anyone to help process their own thoughts, children, might come to the conclusion, that they MUST be "bad", "awful" or "selfish."
Children teach parents to accept that life goes on for them, during the divorce. While it might be good or bad, children have their own schedules and their own needs. Depending on the age of the children, their focus is on school, school activities and sports, summer vacations, friends and extended family relationships. While the divorce is going on around them, children want to get back to their own routines and continue with their own activities with as little disruption as possible. Usually, the burning questions children ask their parents revolves around how the divorce will impact their ability to continue with their routines. When parents focus on answering this question for their children, it shifts the focus away from the divorce and energy can be spent where it is needed, on making sure their children are safe . . . and loved.
As a last thought, I believe children teach parents the following about a divorce:
Let us play . . .
Let us grow . . .
Let us have joy . . .
Let us be able to marry with hope and happiness . . .
LOVE us, always LOVE us . . .