When it comes to divorce and children, it’s worth clarifying that divorce does not usually completely separate a couple from each other, especially if they have children.
In many cases, divorced couples will still need to see each other regularly, learn to co-parent, and makes decisions together about their common children.
So how does one share the painful and challenging process of divorce with children?
When and what to tell the kids
It’s hard to know how your children will take the news. Their responses can vary dramatically based on age, ability, emotional intelligence, and attachment to their parents.
Some children will be able to talk through their thoughts and feelings while others will find different ways to cope.
One American convert to Islam, who was 11 when her parents divorced, recalls getting through her parent’s divorce via her activities and friendships.
“I was in a youth group that was really strong,” she shares, “and I had one friend whose house I basically lived at and could stay over constantly. It was a positive place in my life to have fun and forget about my sad and empty feeling home.”
In cultures where a woman moves back into a family home after divorce, other family’s lives, and children, may be affected as well. One sister shared, “I came back to my parent’s house where my brother already lived with his wife and two kids. [Being here] affects their lifestyle.”
For another sister who moved back home after divorce, her relationship with other family members was tense. “I felt like I was treated like a child and I didn’t have my own space. I felt my kids and I were shuffled around when others came over.”
However, even though younger kids may not understand their new living situations, it’s possible that older children may be more understanding and tolerant than expected about any hardships caused by the divorce.
One sister shares that there was some tension and confusion between her and her children when she got her restraining order against her ex-husband. Thankfully, however, her children don’t demonstrate anger or resentment towards her about it now.
“My oldest children were more aware of the abuse so they understood my side of things,” she explains. “My two oldest also had a very bad relationship with their father and are much more at ease and happy since the divorce. They both said they were waiting for me to divorce him.”
Parental alienation or disappearance
Parental alienation from a parent that wants to be active and involved in a child’s life is also challenging. After divorce, some parents can lose all direct contact with their children.
Younger children may not understand the reasons for the divorce and miss their absent or non-custodial parent terribly.
Some kids have a difficult time because they feel rejected by their own parent. Other children may get depressed wondering where their absent parent is, or wonder why he/she doesn’t want to see them anymore.
Abuse and children
Getting out of abusive marriages can be a relief for both adult and child victims.
One sister shares that ending her marriage was a huge blessing for her children. “The abuse they endured affected them psychologically,” she shares, “particularly my eldest as my youngest can’t remember much. It’s taken a long time, and she still hasn’t fully healed mentally.”
Extra stressors on children
Divorce can make things difficult for everyone, parents and children included. If children are young, parents may try to shield them from the financial hardships and other troubles.
One sister’s husband took everything. “I lost my rental property due to not being able to pay the rent. I also had to sell my car and had a period of time surviving on food vouchers and food parcels,” she recalls. “It was a particularly difficult time.
I didn’t want my children to know the extent of how difficult things were and attempted to keep everything as normal as possible.”
If the children are older, they may be asked to help out. Some may either start working or contribute a portion of their earnings towards household expenses.
One sister’s financial assistance was in jeopardy for several months. In the meantime, to make ends meet, she “accepted help from friends and the community with groceries, and my son and daughter’s income from their jobs.”
But this is not to say that women and children are the only ones who suffer financially. Though most men are already the primary earners, a divorce can stretch their budgets even more. Some men struggle as well.
One brother shared that it was difficult to both pay for his own expenses after his divorce and also maintain his adulterous ex-wife’s living situation as well.
“There was no iddah,” he recalled. “I was kicked out of our home by her for no apparent reason. [The divorce] hurt me mentally, emotionally, and financially. I was still paying the bills for my ex and our kids to stay at our place while I was homeless for almost two years.”
Co-parenting after divorce
Co-parenting becomes the new norm in cases of divorce. After a separation there are living arrangements to sort out and to plan children’s visiting schedules.
One child of divorced parents recalls that it took her mother about seven years to bounce back from her parents’ divorce. She presumes this was because her mother was the one who wanted the divorce. Her mother was happier even though she was struggling financially and logistically.Pages: 1 2