For children of divorce coping with divorce can be a long, long journey in terms of accepting the new family situation.
It is really very common that children try and bring the parents back together after a divorce or separation especially for those aged under 10 years.
It is their way of repairing their world and bringing it back to the way they knew it – familiarity brings on security.
They can be very creative in ways of doing this. They can, for example, create situations where the parents end up spending extra time together.
I know a child who would send lovely text messages from the dad’s phone to mum’s and she was only 7 at the time while another would tell mummy that daddy said he loves her.
For others where a new partner comes into the picture, especially very soon after the break-up, separation or divorce, they can spend a lot of time attempting to sabotage the new relationship sometimes with success.
This is very normal but can be heartbreaking for the parents and the question I have often been asked is how to deal with this.
First of all, don’t panic. It really is very common.
Thing is this “phase” can last for a while and unless addressed it can cause a lot of long lasting pain and stress within the family. The need and wish to bring the parents back together doesn’t happen one day and then they are done – it can be a sustained effort.
But here’s how you can deal with it:
- Don’t give them false hope that you might come back together even where this is your wish too. I knew of a man who
would “empathise” with his son and say things like, “I know, me too, I would like mummy and I to get back together and maybe one day it will happen. Let’s just see how mummy gets on.” This not only made him think that there is a possibility that the reunion will happen but also makes mummy look like the villain who is breaking and keeping the family apart.
- Acknowledge their efforts to bringing you two back together. When you see and realise that this is what is happening just mention it to them by saying something like, “Sweetie, I can see that you really want daddy/mummy and I to get back together. It must be hard for you and I know that because I can see how much you are trying to bring us back together. I promise you, it will be ok. Mummy/daddy and I will not be getting back together but I can promise you that we still love you dearly. None of that has or will ever change.“
- Acknowledge their need and wish to see you two back together. If your are from “broken” home then just share with your child how you felt and that you too wished it never happened. Let them know that you too wanted your mum and dad to get back together as much he/she wants that for you and your ex-spouse.
- Acknowledge that their world has changed and you are sorry about this – it was never part of the plan but sometimes things happen that we didn’t plan and we need to keep moving on. Again do let them know that you love them and add that it is not their fault in anyway. You might have to repeat the later over and over again for a period of time.
When in doubt about how to handle this type of situation, try and see it from your child’s perspective, not always easy to do but not impossible, then you will have the correct answer.
Soila is the founder of The Divorce Magazine and creator of the online course – Helping Children Cope with Divorce
She is known for taking away the pain of trauma and loss in children, adolescents and their families and is the author of “When Love is Broken. A read-together book for children and parents going through divorce and separation.
Soila holds an MSc in Psychoanalytic Developmental Psychology from UCL (University College London), is an accredited Positive Parenting Program (Triple P) practitioner and a trained Family Mediator.
Soila is Graduate Member of the British Psychological Society.
You can contact her on 07850 85 60 66 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org