Our Divorce, Our Children

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Marriage is usually the culmination of a healthy relationship between a man and a woman in love.  The following step after marriage is usually having children.  Nobody expects to get divorced.  We all go into marriage with the idea or hope that it will last forever.  Sadly, that is not always the case.  The divorce rate in Egypt has increased drastically in recent years.  No one can tell the real reason behind this. Some blame the man for lack of responsibility, while others lay the blame on the woman for being too independent. Who is at fault is beside the point. The ones most affected by a divorce are usually the ones who have no hand in it, our little angels, our children.


I overheard a little boy and girl playing together; the girl was telling the boy when they grow up and get married if he makes her angry she will divorce him!!! That goes to show how common divorce in Egypt has become; and how lightly people take it.


Some divorce instances are unavoidable, while others are done on the whim of one of the partners.  To a large extent the way the divorce is handled by the adults dictates how it will affect the children.  If your child is inherently resilient, he/she is more likely to accept life altering situations, such as a divorce with ease.


If the divorce was not handled in a calm and civilized manner, with integrity and honesty, more often than not there will be resentment, bitterness and anger, just to mention a few negative emotions. Custody battles, fighting over visitation rights and times can cause major heart ache for the parents, let alone the child.  The child usually feels like he/she is the cause of these problems. Most children associate situations and events as to how they directly affect them, they are self centered by nature due to their young age and inexperience in the world. Any fight between the major caregivers, any grievances between the child’s parents would be interpreted as their fault.


Some parents consciously or unconsciously assign the child the role of messenger. “Tell your father you need a new pair of sports shoes.” “Tell your mother not to be late again.” Many children have been subjected to comments like these. Harmless as they may seem, they are putting the child in an awkward position. It’s not the child’s role to send messages. Any communication between the separated parents should be directly between them.


Usually these negative comments are indirectly made in the presence of the child. It’s not fair. Parents, beware that when you belittle your ex-spouse, you are giving your child the message that you “don’t like” that person, which puts your child in the unenviable position of developing unhealthy emotions towards one or both parents. You can choose whom to marry, but no one chooses his/her parents.


I have witnessed many parents complain “your father wants to take you away from me” or “your mother won’t allow me to see you enough”  These remarks about the child’s parent are extremely destructive to the child’s self esteem.


Instead of sabotaging your child’s relationship with his other parent, try to make it something beneficial to your child. Attempt to look for the positive in the situation. There are two sides to every coin.


As much as you can, try to make your child feel free to talk about his time away from you, that’s not to say probe him/her for information. Trust that your ex-partner will not harm your child. This child is after all theirs as well!


One father I know has told me that as a divorced parent he actually spends more time with his son than his friends do with their children who are living with them! When I asked him how he came to that conclusion, he told me that his time with his son is planned and they do more activities together. One on one quality time with our children is essential to building a lifetime bond. This father has actually seen the bright side of being a divorced parent!


Another upside is that children with divorced parents get the opportunity to spend “special time” with both sets of grandparents. Let’s face it; grandparents can sometimes be overbearing! But with the son/daughter in law not in the picture they tend to be more relaxed and accommodating! This can give the child the opportunity to learn how to adapt to different situations and different house rules.


Don’t drag your children in your divorce battle, they have their own internal conflict to work out. Instead of subjecting them to situations that are confusing and intimidating, try to comfort them. If your children are old enough to understand that divorce means one of the parents living away, talk with them. Sit your child down and have both parents talk to the child and explain the situation. If both parents don’t want or are not comfortable doing this together, you can do this at separate sittings, but please agree on the message you will give your child.


Instead of complaining and being angry and bitter about a failed marriage, revel in the beauty of your child. Think and plan according to what is best for your child. Some children of failed marriages suffer many emotional problems; they feel rejected, judged, compared, and resented. Surprisingly, many children of divorced parents seem to be thriving and leading a normal, healthy life.


Be a role model to your child. Practice patience and tolerance. Show your child how to forgive and how to move on. Help make your child “whole”, in the sense that he/she can easily fit in different settings, and adapt to a diversely changing world.


For the sake of our children, I beseech you; please don’t make them a pawn in your wars. They are not your soldiers, and should not be in the midst of the flying shrapnel of your accusations and scuffles.


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