On October 2013, the movie Split (www.splitfilm.org) was premiered at the annual IACP Forum. This documentary looks at divorce from the perspective of the children involved. As they point out on their website, in the US almost half of all children will experience a parental separation of some kind before the age of 16. Their website contains a good trailer, and the full movie can be purchased on DVD.
I highly recommend Split both for parents who want to get a realistic idea of how their children may be impacted by the parents’ separation, and for children who are going through a parental separation to help them better understand that others have gone through this as well and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
I attended a talk the other day by Kristin Little on parents in divorce. She pointed out how important it is for the parents to remain strong for their children during the stress of a divorce. They need to know, from our actions and attitude, that we believe that is is possible to get through this very difficult time to a new future. You are their leader – if they see you in despair, feeling hopeless, they will tend to adopt the same attitude. If we want them to have confidence about their ability to move forward, we have to model that attitude for them.
Kristin made several other great points as well. It is important to shield the children from the conflict as much as possible. If you and the other parent are arguing, don’t do it in front of the children. Don’t argue at exchanges, in the house, or on the phone when they can hear you. If there is not someplace else to talk, email may work better than verbal dialogue. Also, don’t ask the children to make choices — that puts them in the middle and forces them to declare disloyalty to one parent or the other, which can be highly damaging.
Finally, if the children are acting out due to their own stress, we don’t have to just cave to them. We can discipline the behavior while comforting the emotion.