Will my kids grow up to be like their Dad? My daughter is 14 and my son is 16. Last year he left us and told me he was done with being a parent. The kids were old enough to be independent he said. They did not really need him anymore and this was his time to start to enjoy life. I am not sure what he thought he had been doing up to that point. He has a younger girlfriend and she does not want anything to do with his children. It reminds her how old he is she says. He calls occasionally but has little interest in their wellbeing. Now I am worried that my kids will think this is how marriage works. When you need more excitement you just move on. Please tell me they will not be like him.
The very first thing to do is ensure that you take care of yourself. There are so many worries associated with separation. You have an enormous responsibility now as a single parent and self-care is especially important to sustain your own emotional needs.
You are not alone in worrying that your children will see their father’s choices repeated in their future adult lives. I think any parent who has had a runaway spouse thinks it could happen with their own children. There are no guarantees in life but there are things that can be done to help your children move into adulthood with a solid understanding of healthy relationships.
We have learned that children survive and thrive with one good parent. Focus on being the best parent you can be. Make time for them, even at their age, they need to feel secure. Their life has been turned upside down. If you feel abandonment, they do too.
Children learn what they live. Be the model of the person you want them to be. Highlight values in your parenting. Use every opportunity to show them the difference between right and wrong and the importance of being responsible for their actions. Help them to understand we have no control over how others behave but we do have self-control.
As difficult as it might be, limit the criticism of your former spouse. Your children are at an age where they can make their own conclusions about their father’s choices and behavior. Those opinions may change as they get older and time has passed.
Support them when he disappoints them because he will disappoint them, and it will hurt them. Someday he may see his mistakes and he may not. Encourage them to accept whatever future outcome they experience with their father. It may include a warmer relationship. Remind them that they have personal control over how that relationship with their father evolves. They should make their own choices about their father’s place in their lives and not be coerced into anything. Encourage them to focus on the many positives you have together. Be realistic with them.
They will need to vent but be cautious about spending too much time in the past. You can be the conversation guide. Give them the opportunity to share their frustrations but guide the conversation toward acceptance of family life as it is now. You will feel those same frustrations and will feel some gratification with the criticism of their father but moving beyond those criticisms will be healthy for everyone.
Remind them of all the things that are good in their life. Make sure that the three of you form a solid, secure family unit. Have some fun. Fill the space left by your former spouse with a new future.
As they mature and the distance between the family breakup increases, life will become less about his leaving and more about your life together. You will create new memories, new traditions that are yours to celebrate. We cannot anticipate the future, but what you have right now is the opportunity to create a solid foundation for that future.
If you are in need of a place to seek some advice on a way forward during separation and divorce please write to firstname.lastname@example.org – Reaching out is the first step.
ABOUT LINDA SIMPSON
“I take strength from your calm, your honesty, and the hope you give me for my future.” Cheryl
Linda is a fresh voice in the divorce advice world. She offers a pragmatic, common sense approach to life after divorce issues based on over twenty years surviving and thriving following a very traumatic divorce.
As a single parent, her sons are an enormous source of joy in her life. She is a loving mother and grandmother to four delightful grandchildren.
She holds a degree from the University of Waterloo with concentrations in sociology and philosophy and guidance counselling certification from Queen’s University.
She is an accredited trainer for The Peace Education Foundation, a leader in conflict resolution training. The institute is ‘dedicated to educating children and adults in the dynamics of conflict resolution and promoting peacemaking skills in home, schools, and community.’
In a long and successful teaching career, she also served as a counsellor and workshop facilitator for SEL (social emotional learning) programming and The Peace Education Foundation throughout her school and school district and was a frequent conference presenter for SUNY Potsdam Faculty of Education USA.
She writes for The Divorce Magazine UK and her blog is seen regularly on Huffington Post Canada where the focus is life after divorce and parenting issues.
She is a writer and poet and is presently at work on a book based on her divorce experience.