I recently spoke to a divorced dad friend of mine who lives in the States and whom I have known for over 20 years.
My discussion with him is what prompted this article because it was not the first time that I have come across lies we tell our children as we go through divorce.
He and his ex-wife divorced when their daughter was just turning 1 and from then on all contact with his child became a hellish journey comprised of last minute cancellations and changes in pre-arranged visitation dates and times as well as wasted journeys where he would be met with a no-show from ex-partner and child.
Well, one day he went over as planned and they were not home. It was the neighbour who informed him that the “the lady who lived there” had moved back to her country of origin which was in a very distant continent.
He had not been consulted, not been told and had no idea.
He eventually managed to track them down and in the last 10 years, has managed to see his daughter twice.
Last year, his now 14 year old daughter sent him an email asking if she could go live with him and his family. She explained that it was her mum’s suggestion as she had lost her job and home and was finding it difficult to look after her.
My friend and his current wife, were happy to have her, despite the fact that they too were and still are struggling financially.
So he replied to his daughter and told her this, adding that while they were making the necessary arrangements, her mother, his ex-partner, would need to write to the authorities concerned to inform them of the new arrangement so that the child maintenance cheques can stop.
Thing to understand here is that the State in which he lives does not mess about when it comes to child support. If you fail to pay a couple of times, they will come for you and you can explain the rest to the judge! So whether my friend liked it or not, child support was on thing he wasn’t about to play around with.
His daughter replied with the words, “What child support. Mum told me you’ve never paid any child support.”
The truth is now beginning to unravel like a ball of wool. As is sometimes said, “today is the tomorrow you feared yesterday.”
Here is a child who will slowly, in one way or other, begin to understand that not everything her mum told her about her father is true.
Forget about how this will affect the mother/daughter relationship and think about how this will affect the way this girl will begin to see her own life and the guilt she might feel for having resented or hated her father for so long for something he never did.
If her mother could lie about something so fundamental and so easy to prove untrue, what else could she have lied about to her daughter regarding her father?
My questions to you are the following:
What is the point of telling our children untruths about their other parent while going through a divorce?
How does that benefit them?
What is the point of alienating them from the other parent? Again, how does that benefit them? Do we not realise that one day, this child will grow up, that he/she will meet up with his/her alienated parent and the truth will come out?
Are we really that short-sighted?
Do we not realise that these children will grow and in time the truth will emerge?
Do we not understand that by lying to them, we are indeed planting a time bomb on our own relationship with them and when the “boom” happens, because it will, they, our children, will resent us for the longest time possible. Are we really that fatuous?
In my line of work, I have heard of lies much more serious and damaging than this.
As a parent, aren’t we supposed to make sure our children are alright no matter what that costs us?
Why do we lie to them about someone so significant in their life, someone whom they are part of?
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