If going through a divorce is, for adults, like surviving a heart attack, I think for children it must be like surviving a heart attack every month for the next ten years or so, with intermittent pains – and the expectation of them – for the duration.
So my girlfriend-helping-a-girlfriend-going-through-divorce advice is this: take care of yourself, for sure. Surround yourself with sane, functional people who love you. But if you are a mom, your biggest job is guiding your children through this heartache so you do not add to THEIR pain. This means being an adult when you most want to act like a child and lash out, when you want to go back to sleep or forget about soccer practice or hit the drive through, or, perhaps, hit the bottle.
As the mom, you are an adult with some understanding of what’s going on. The children
involved, depending on their ages, just know that there is change, their parents are angry, and it seems as though things will never be as good as they used to be.
And then there is this universal truth: No matter which parent the children are with, they’re always going to be missing the other parent.
So girlfriends, if you want to really be a help for the long-haul, help your girlfriend who is going through a divorce by helping with her children. That’s where there is a world of hurt that is sometimes overlooked, bought-off, or hushed up. Help your friend with her children, and you’ll actually help the whole world. For real. By reaching out to a child who is feeling lonely, scared, confused, and resentful, you may help him or her keep that pain from becoming acting out in class, or the start of using food or alcohol or sex to ease the pain, or the start of using the divorce as an excuse to fail.
Say your best friend has a five-year-old son. I’ve been told this the worst time for a little boy to experience divorce because it is when little boys want to see daddy go away so they can have mom for themselves. If this really does happen, that little boy is going to be extremely confused, and believe he has a whole lot more power than he really has. When he doesn’t have the power to make it all okay again, the anger will be pretty epic.
So to help your friend, offer to enroll her son – or daughter – in soccer or t-ball, or to sponsor him or her in scouts. Whatever the child’s age, find out what other kids that age are doing that is healthy and enjoyable, and ask the child what sounds the best. Together you’ll figure out some kind of age-appropriate, character-building distraction. The key is figuring it out, taking the action, and following through. Kids going through a divorce need follow-through, consistency, healthy attention.
This is your opportunity to be the ideal “aunt.” Your support in this way gives your friend some time to herself, and gives the child some time to be a child and relieve some stress and aggression.
If you’re married and have a family of your own, include your friend’s child – or children – in your family activities. When I went through my divorce 17 years ago, the parents of my children’s friends were such a great support group because they loved my children, and included them on family vacations and all manner of family activities that I just flat did not have the capacity to deliver.
You see, it does take a village to raise a child. Especially a child of divorce. And especially if this child of divorce has one parent who is far away, and a “custodial” parent juggling to provide, to parent, to heal from the divorce, and to play good cop and bad cop all on his or her own.
When you step up for the mom by stepping up for her children, you help your friend have some space to be a disappointed, sad, angry, and frustrated little girl herself, and some time out to become more the adult and mom her children need. And that, girlfriend, is something any woman going through a divorce will appreciate.
Carey Sipp’s first book, The TurnAround Mom – How an Abuse and Addiction Survivor Stopped the Toxic Cycle for Her Family, and How You Can, Too, guides fellow “children of chaos” to create the kind of sane and loving home life that helps prevent next-generation addiction and abuse. Follow her on Twitter @TurnAroundMom.
This post first appeared on ShareWIK.com