Divorce: Dad or Mom left…now what?


Navigating divorce is difficult. There are many causes for divorce. A few of these are:

  1. Affairs
  2. Grown apart/fallen out of love
  3. Addiction
  4. Incompatible
Divorce becomes even more complex when there are children involved.

Many times, parents become bitter and angry towards each other and it is hard to treat each other respectfully. Even though it may be difficult, children are half their dad and half their mom.

Divorce is a shift for the entire family system, and there are going to be feelings of sadness, guilt, betrayal, anger, and maybe even relief that come from this shift.

Parents will need to provide space for children to feel and express the feelings that they are experiencing. Children may feel like it is their fault and that they are no longer loved by one or both parents. Oftentimes, absentee fathers or mothers can become overwhelmed with guilt and shame and therefore lose touch with their children. Children often take it very personally if a parent is not actively pursuing them. This neglect can leave them feeling unwanted and uncertain about how to act with that parent.

Some parents may separate due to an addiction, and they are unable to function and behave in a parental manner.  Often with addictions, the family believes they were not enough for their dad or mom to change their destructive ways. They may also take on parental roles in order to help sustain the family system. However, the individual who is struggling with an addiction will typically follow their drug of choice. They may love their family, but they are allowing the drug of choice to write their narrative. This type of family dynamic can be unsettling for the children if the mom and dad have periods of being absent and periods of being present. Children thrive with security and knowing what to expect from their family.

Children are perceptive and will pick up on the silent and audible cues of the family. The way they cope with the sense of loss and rejection may not always be in a healthy manner.

Children may begin to act out, and the divorce can cause behavioral issues that were not as prominent before the family system shift.

By modeling respect for each other, the parents will enable the children to feel loved by both parents and not to have to pick sides. Often times, children feel guilty and take responsibility for their parents breaking up. It is imperative for parents not to put the children in the middle of the relationship and to choose what parent to side with.

Chelsey Beauchamp, MS

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