As a teacher I parent a lot of children with separated parents, or students who are going through their parents separation. It is heartbreaking to watch but more so when the parents are warring as the poor children are stuck in the middle.
As a separated parent, I have a lot of things I feel guilty and worried about. Having a hunt, this is what research tells us parents need to do:
•listen to their children and nurture an independent and empathic relationship with each of them;
•fully support their children's relationships with the other parent (making them feel loved and wanted in both homes);
•develop positive strategies for setting limits and imposing appropriate discipline;
•continue to hold reasonably high expectations for their children, regardless of trying circumstances; and
•shield their children from their parental disagreements and resentments.
Paraphrased from: http://www.divorcenet.com/states/colorado/coart_11
I really worry sometimes that I have hurt my child. What will she think of marriage? What will she think of ME?
For a very long time after my mother left my father, I blamed her. I hated her for splitting up my family. I hated her for turning a seemingly perfect family into one that seemed to disintergrate in front of my eyes.
Before my parents separated, in a very naive way, life seemed perfect. My family were loving. We were well groomed, always with hair neatly up and shoes on. We went on holidays, camped, and some nights when it was really hot we used to lay on our big trampoline and look at the stars. One night we even saw a UFO. All four of us stared up at the sky, just outside the patio my father had lovingly built, staring in wonder at an object that zipped around the night sky, too fast for a plane or a satellite.
Our rabbits had baby rabbits. Our chooks laid eggs. My mother taught me how to sew, and cook and about spirituality and God. My father taught me about the importance of looking after the environment, how to grow spectacular vegetables and how to catch a fish. My darling baby sister was sweet natured and kind to everyone. She amazed everyone with her perfect peaches and cream skin and long, thick hair. Not everything was perfect, but as a child, it felt pretty damn close.
On the day before Valentines day, in 1998, when I was 15, Mum and Dad told us they were to separate. Then came the fighting, lawyers, court case, custody, maintainence fights that went on for years. I was left with Dad, because being at a private boarding school, I cost more. My babydoll sister went to live with my Mum in a different town, a rift that left scars on my soul and psyche to this day. I hardly saw my mother or my sister for months, as my mother struggled to find her feet and establish a new life for herself. When I saw my darling sister again, she was almost a stranger. I don't think I need to tell you that I am in tears writing this.
For my parents, the pain they endured was massive. My mother later confessed that she had been miserable for nearly 10 years. My father had no idea, loving my mother until the day she told him she wanted to leave. My parents both handled the other parent differently. My father told us everything they talked about, and exactly how he felt about my mother. My mother said nothing, and would not speak of my father at all. Both approaches hurt. Everything hurt. It felt like my world had crumbled.
My situation is a little different to that of my parents. We have one child, not two. She is 2, and not 15. We have equal and shared responsibilty for her. We live in the same suburb. We communicate freely and frequently.
And I don't hate him. Ava needs her father in her life. She needs the richness and love that he gives her and the difference that he is from me. I need his co-parenting to raise our daughter. He is important to her, and so he is important to me.
Is it enough to counteract the fact we are not together anymore? I hope so. More than that, I will do everything in my power to make it so. I never want my daughter to go through what I did.