Separation from the children’s point of view
Christine(not her real name) is a separated mother, she has two children, a 7 year old boy and a 9 year old girl with her first husband. For a few years, however, Christine has also had a new partner, from whom her latest child was born, who is now just a few months old.
The children from her first marriage live mostly with her, her new partner and their child. When she arrives in my office Christine is very confused. She says she is angry with her ex-husband because every time their children come home after spending the weekend with him, they cry. She justifies this crying as a demonstration of her children’s unhappiness at having returned to her. She sees this as manipulation by her father to feed his ego. She says that he makes her children spend a weekend without rules, making them do only what they want and thus demonstrating that she is the strict parent who only imposes rules.
He asks me, therefore, how he can make his children’s father understand that what he is doing is not correct. Alternatively he asks me how he can make their children understand that what the father does he does because he spends little time with them, while they spend more time with her and it is right that there are more rules. While I listen to him talk I imagine the scene of the two children returning to their mother’s house after the weekend spent with their father.
I imagine a father standing at the front door of his ex’s house with his new family. I imagine the two children halfway between their dad and their mom. I imagine Christine holding the baby from her new relationship, opening the door to her children.
I imagine myself in the shoes of the two children and I feel their displeasure in having to choose again which of the two parents to keep now, while it is clear to them that they would not like to make a choice. I invite Christine to imagine this situation with me and to put herself in the shoes of her children with me. I invite you to imagine having to give up one of your two parents every weekend.
Isn’t this reason enough to cry?
I propose that you read the crying of your children not as a refusal to return to their maternal home, but rather as a renewal of mourning for your children. I therefore propose that from that moment onwards you welcome her children in your free embrace, without holding the new family’s child in your arms. I propose that you welcome her children with open arms, sit on the floor with them and welcome their tears, recognizing their right to sadness, at a time when it obviously exists. Recognize her dignity in this sadness, call it, name it, authorize it, without blaming the children because it is experienced by their mother as an attack on their new life.
Christine looks at me in disbelief, she had never been able to see the situation from another point of view. And, paradoxically, this new point of view absolves everyone but above all it offers her children a new possibility, that of being able to freely express their emotions without feeling guilty, due to the risk of hurting their mother by being sad.
Separation from the children’s point of view
What is this story for?
This story highlights several fundamental elements:
Understanding Children’s Emotions
Children often do not have the tools to fully express what they feel, especially in complex situations such as a separation. Their reactions can be misunderstood if viewed only from an adult point of view.
The Dynamics of Separation
After a separation, it is normal for parents to feel in competition or feel like they are in a fight for their children’s affection. This can lead to misinterpretations of children’s behaviors, as Christine did.
Empathy and Reflection
Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, in this case children’s shoes, can offer a different and enlightening perspective on a situation. This allows you to act in a more sensitive and aware way.
The importance of Emotional Reception
Children, like all human beings, need to feel welcomed in their emotions, especially in difficult times. The invitation to Christine to welcome her children with open arms is a way to recognize and validate their emotions.
The story teaches us the importance of going beyond the surface and trying to understand what could be the basis of a behavior or reaction, instead of stopping at superficial or hasty judgments.
In summary, this story highlights the importance of understanding, empathy and emotional acceptance in complex family situations such as a separation. It shows how a small change in perception can lead to a substantial change in the way we approach situations and relate to others, especially our children.
Is it simple?
Separation or divorce can have a significant impact on the psychology of children. This period of change and uncertainty can bring up a range of emotions in children, from fears and anxieties to anger or sadness. It is therefore essential for parents to recognize and understand these feelings, without minimizing or ignoring them.
It is also very important for parents to manage their emotions and stress during this period, so that they can provide a stable and reassuring environment for their children. That said, there’s no harm in seeking outside help when things become too much to handle on your own. A specialized therapist or counselor can provide support and strategies for both parents and children to navigate this difficult period.
The testimony that both mothers and fathers pass through your office highlights that the concern and desire to do what is best for their children is universal. Dads can also feel overwhelmed, confused or guilty during a separation, and they deserve the same support and understanding.
Ultimately, the important thing is to care about the well-being of children and put your differences aside to ensure they are supported, loved and understood during these times of change.
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