When her parents separated, Katie, a nine year-old, reported having nightmares that her father would return and abuse her. Rebecca's five year-old view of divorce was that, "Mommy and Daddy yelled a lot, Daddy hit Mommy, the police came and made Daddy leave home." <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Since his parents' divorce, Joey has withdrawn from communicating with either parent, and rarely leaves the house to play with his friends after school.
Tina, an eleven year old, left home and moved in with a friend... over night, upon leaning that her parents were planning to divorce.
David's behavior became "unmanageable", according to his mother, six months after she divorced her husband.
Splitting is tough. if you were fortunate enough to have remained a twosome, perhaps you came away with a few possessions, a few memories and a broken heart. A threesome (or more-some), however, can be a heart-break of the worst kind: How can two people who no longer relate to each other in a loving manner convince a much younger, more vulnerable and impressionable, less secure third person that he is loved by his/her parents? This apparent contradiction in the eyes of a child, and the various conflicts which ensue as a result during the divorce process, only serves to augment the pain and frustration already present in the estranged relationship.
For the children involved, the Loose Ends, the storm just rages on and on; the forecast is bleak, and laced with intermittent periods of emotional upheaval including, confusion, denial, fear of loss, anger and depression. During the divorce process, the child may become frightened and confused about which parent is right, good, the one he can turn to for help. Some children become so threatened as the family "fault line" widens, that they may deny such a rift exists.
At times, a child may lash out angrily at either one or both parents; or blame himself for the situation and act depressed. When confronted with a delicate situation of this nature, it often becomes compelling to search for The Answer. However, each of us as individuals has his or her own model of the world--a map of reality; and nobody's map captures all of the territory. So a more useful approach than finding the answer involves teaching the child to do so!
Someone once said, "Give a man a fish and you have fed him for a day; teach him how, and you have fed him for life." In any context, there are basically two types of interventions which will produce change. A Remedial intervention serves the purpose of producing rapid change by providing an answer. If you contract poison ivy, ice and certain antihistamines may reduce the itch and swelling. A Generative intervention is designed to help an individual learn to make choices. By learning to identify various types of plants, your senses may help you avoid poison ivy and thus, the need for medication.
Teach your children to make generative changes. Elaborate if possible with your estranged spouse and present the situation to your children in a consistent, unified fashion. Encourage children to discuss their feelings and ask questions that will enable them to utilize their own resources (creative problem-solving skills, memories of happy successful experiences) to process what is happening in a generative fashion. One in which they learn to create alternative choices from that of taking sides, feeling blameworthy, or seriously depressed and withdrawn. Someone will generally select the best choice available in a given situation. Through your efforts, your children can sort through this turmoil and, in time, make useful decisions. Those that will tie the "loose ends" and provide alternatives for dealing with future crises!