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Stress, sadness, anger: How children of divorce function

Almost every morning in my household starts the same way for my son. I walk into his room and gently wake him up. Once he’s left the comfort of his blankets, he throws himself on the couch and starts to cry.

Most days start out like this, though it’s always worse when a Monday morning follows a weekend away from me.

My children are the product of a divorced home. Their biggest hardship is not having enough time with me.

One of the biggest struggles in my life is the choice between providing a life for my children and spending time with them, which any working parent can understand. When I realized I would have to be the sole provider for my little family, I knew that it would be difficult. However, knowing and experiencing are two very different things.

There are several days that our schedules keep us away from home until bedtime, so it is part of our routine to have some snuggle time on the couch before calling it a night.

Some nights we don’t get that time, and those nights are rough. Many tears are shed—by both my kids and myself—when those precious moments can’t be had.

Times like these make me question the choices that I have made to provide for my children. Logically, I know that I am making the right decisions for my kids. But my brain should tell my heart, because it’s not getting the memo. The weight of the decisions I make is on my mind, but that’s not what keeps me up at night.

The thoughts that run through my mind, chasing away the sleep, are about the difficulties that hang from my children’s shoulders. While every child has different levels of hardship, children of divorce have a level of normal that kids in conventional families don’t understand.

Normal for some children is bouncing back and forth between two homes, never feeling settled, feeling like they have to choose sides between parents and families. Normal for many children is secretly wondering if they were the cause of the split in the marriage, no matter how reassuring parents are.

Stress, difficulty with change, withholding emotions, anger, sadness and introversion are all symptoms of divorce that my children have experienced.

With more and more families experiencing divorce, this affects most children in some way, either personally or through someone they know. So how do we address this issue with our children? Hw do we give our children what they need in these situations?

Be open and honest. Don’t give children more information than they need, but help them to understand the circumstances in which they are living.

Be loving and supportive. Make sure children know that what they feel is important. Acknowledge their feelings and let them experience them. Then, give them the love and support they need as they are learning to deal with their feelings. Make sure children know they are not alone.

Be honest about your responsibilities as a parent. Remove any events in your life that don’t need to be there. Instead, give that time to your children. Remember that the time will pass quickly, and they will grow up. Enjoy the moments when you are in them. Children are resilient and will bounce back, but they will remember the times you were present and the love they felt from you.

I have always admired the strength that resides in children as they learn and develop into unique personalities. Watching my children adapt to their life, I have learned a new respect for just how strong children can be.

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