Overcoming Guilt about the Divorce

Overcoming Guilt about the Divorce

Paul Wanio, PhD, LMFT

Sometimes, an obstacle to listening to one’s child is the fear that we will hear something that will produce sadness, anger or guilt in us.  It may also be difficult to listen to negative comments or complaints because of feeling the need to be the “perfect parent” and not wanting to hear that we are causing anymore discomfort to our child.  There can also be times when your child will see everything that you do as wrong and everything that the other parent does as right.  This can easily lead a parent to feeling overly sensitive and defensive.      

These emotional situations become obstacles only if you overreact due to taking your child’s comments too personally, assume that you cannot handle the situation, assume that you are a “bad” parent or that you cannot make mistakes.  Having faith in your abilities as a parent, allowing yourself to make mistakes, being less critical of yourself and taking time to think things through will change obstacles into manageable challenges.      

     To meet these challenges, keep the following in mind:

   []  You’re not perfect, and that’s OK.

   []  You will make mistakes even when doing your best.  

   []  Divorce is like a death and sometimes the only thing that you can
       do is to just be there for your child and understand.  That’s all.

   []  Your child’s negative comments may simply be an expression of 
       distress and not criticism.

   []  Your child’s blaming of you may be a defense against feeling 
       overwhelmed and not meant against you personally — it is
       merely a young child’s way of coping.   

   []  Change never happens as quickly as any of us want.  Acceptance 
       and patience will do much to help you through this time.

   []  Listen to your child, even when what you hear is hard to accept.  
       Problems can only be dealt with if allowed to be out in the open.  
       It is that which is hidden that causes most of the trouble.

   []  Distress is less traumatic when met with love.

   []  One incident will rarely cause trauma.  It is the overall feeling, 
       relationship and track record you have with your child that makes 
       the difference.

   []  Keep things in perspective and you will not be overwhelmed.  You 
        can handle most any one situation simply because it is just that – 
        one situation.  There are few things that you will face that cannot be
        fixed, handled and lived with.  (After all, look at what you’ve managed 
        to handle so far!).

   []  Tomorrow is another day.

By keeping these ideas in the back of your mind, you will be able to temporarily put aside your own feelings at the proper time and stay focused upon the feelings of your child.  This will not only benefit your child, but will contribute to your own self-esteem and coping skills.  This kind of self-discipline will keep you focused and feeling in control of your life.

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C. Paul Wanio, PhD, LMFT, is a psychotherapist in private practice in Lake Worth and Boca Raton, FL. He can be reached at DrPaulWanio@aol.com. He is also a contributor to the new ebook, How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook™ Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! by Rosalind Sedacca, CCT. To learn more, go to http://howdoitellthekids.com. For additional articles on child-centered divorce, visit http://www.childcentereddivorce.com.

Child-Centered Divorce: Learning from the Mistakes of Others

Child-Centered Divorce: Learning from the Mistakes of Others

By Rosalind Sedacca, CCT

Over the years there have been endless studies on the effects of divorce on parents and children. Some of the results are controversial. Others seem to be univrsally accepted as relevant and real. Here are a few of my perceptions from studies on children who experience divorce that I believe all of us, as parents, should take to heart.

Not surprisingly, the first two years of divorce are the most diffuclt. In some cases it takes an average of three to five years to really “work through” and resolve many of the issues and emotions that come to the surface. For some, the effects of divorce last many additonal years — or even a lifetime — if not dealt with appropratiely. Taking steps toward a child-centered divorce can dramatically impact the negative effects of divorce on all members of the family. It will help everyone to move through this time rather than merely letting “time heal all wounds.”

Preschoolers tend to be more frightened and anxious, but seem to adjust better than older children in the long run. Their biggest fear is of abandonment. Stressing security and a continuation of family routines is very helpful for them. Older children understand more, but do not have adequate coping skills and therefore seem to have more long-term problems. This is often becasue they remember life before the divorce and so experience a greater change of life patterns and dwell more on comparisons between the past and present. Stressing the love both parents have for the child — and that that love will continue forever is vitally important whenever possible.

Children who may have witnessd a troubled marriage and family life may greatly benefit from observing their parents now working out a reasonable and respectful post-divorce arrangement. This positive and mature behavior will affect a child’s adjustment more than any other factor.

It is never too late to create a child-centered divorce, even if you started on the wrong track. Every step you take toward focusing on your children’s emotional, psychological and physical needs as they move through the months and years post-divorce, will be a step toward modeling for them how loving, compassionate, and caring parents respond to their children’s needs. I encourage you to make your relationship with your children’s other parent as respectful and considerate as you can — for the sake of your children.

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Rosalind Sedacca, CCT, has been facilitating relationship seminars and workshops for more than fifteen years. As a Certified Corporate Trainer and professional speaker, she now focuses her attention on coaching troubled families on how to create a “child-centered divorce.” For other free articles on this subject, to receive her free ezine, and/or to order her book, How Do I Tell the Kids about the DIVORCE? A Create-a-Storybook Guide ™ to preparing your children — with love, Rosalind invites you to visit her website, http://www.childcentereddivorce.com 

© Rosalind Sedacca 2007 All rights reserved.