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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

single & stronger - anonymous mom

As part two of our Single & Stronger series, I am grateful to this anonymous mom for sharing her story of divorce with a young child. She offers some great ideas for how to manage some difficult behaviors from kids who are trying to figure out what is going on with the separation. 

1. When did you know that you needed to get a divorce? What signs did you know it was the right time? 
After a nearly a year separation with less and less attempts on his part to meet, I confronted him.  I knew he was seeing others, so I started the process of moving on.

2. How long ago did you get divorced, and how old were your kids?  
The divorce was finalized almost 3 months ago.  My son is 6 years old.

3. What were you hoping for when you decided to get divorced? What did you want for your kids in this process?  
Really the divorce was putting a definitive on what was already there.  He had left and moved on, and it was my permission to do the same.  Selfish or not, it did not have much to do with my son.  We have not even used the word “divorce” to him.

4. How did you tell the children? How did they react?  
When the separation happened, my son was 5 y.o.  My ex told him while I was present in the room.  We used the idea of a timeout, but said that we did not know when it would end.  Later, when the divorce was emanate, I readdressed the situation to ensure that my son knew the change was to stay.  My son’s reaction was typical crying.  There were several out lashes in behavior.  Hitting became the way to express emotions and frustration.  A firm “No!” curbed it a lot, I still repeated the process more times than I wanted.


5. What is your advice to other parents going through this in how they should work with their kids through it?   
Talk about how it makes you feel!  Then do it again and again!  They need to hear the child version enough to know that they are not the only ones feeling that way.  

Take the time to assess the kids.  The small changes in behavior have a wealth of knowledge as to how they are doing.  Pushing away, wanting extra snuggles, defiance, and violence are signs and testing.  Stay firm in your rules.  Put them on paper if necessary. 

6. What is your advice to someone contemplating divorce?   
The grass may seem greener on the other side!  Take the time to talk with your partner (so long as it is not dangerous).  Advice I got and didn’t take soon enough was to schedule an appointment for both of you to talk to someone even if you think they won’t come.  They might surprise you!  If the best solution is divorce, then make the decision and keep moving in that direction.  You will have moments of doubt!

7. What helped your kids get through this situation? What were some challenges for them?  
A family rules chart was beneficial in consistency.  It is hard to argue with paper.  My son understands beyond his years, so a challenge was getting his language in line with his mental understanding.  He knew more than he was able to express.  Crying sessions ended in snuggles and a discussion of feelings.  I started with putting ideas out there for him to understand easier, then as time passed I waited longer for him to form his own ideas.  I always included crazy things to ensure that he was not just copying my words.

8. What helped YOU get through this, and what were some challenges you experienced?  
Finding one or two friends that you can tell all the complaints without unwanted feedback was essential.  I didn’t really want to hear everyone’s opinion, so this minimized that chance.  

The largest challenge was listening to my son crying and talking about how he felt when I knew I could not do a thing to help or change it.  

Single parenting did not really phase me, but do take others up on their offers of help.

9. How are things now currently - are you civil with your ex, do you have a routine, schedule, communication, etc.? If things aren't great, how do you wish it was?  
We are civil, and have been for the most part.  He lives out of state, so there is nightly phone calls and once a week video chatting.  Actual visitations are just taking shape now, so my son likes having the ability of when they will see each other next.

10. If you find yourself in a relationship again, what will you be looking for in a partner and a helper to raise your children?  
I will be looking for a person who understands that we are a package deal.  We are both important and my son’s opinion matters.  I also want a person who is able to feel as though they have authority in parenting. 


11. What do you hope your kids understand someday about why you chose to separate from their other parent? 
In general, that I am not an evil person who made this decision without thought.  I am pretty sure that is where we are at right now.

12. What do you think people misunderstand about moms who are divorced? What do you wish others knew about your experience?  
Whatever you see is just us/them trying to do the best with what there is.  The kids tend to act out when least convenient and often leaves you thinking you are failing.  

Please remember you don’t know what happens behind closed doors.  I chose not to say much which left me vulnerable to the local chatting.  No story contains the whole picture.

13. Anything else you'd like to share?  
You are stronger than you realize!!

14. What have you learned about yourself in this process?  
I learned that I spent a lot of time on others and had left myself out of the equation.  

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