I recently finished reading Making Divorce Easier on Your Child: 50 Effective Ways to Help Children Adjust by Long and Forehand. In brief, to-the-point chapters, the book provides advice to ease children’s adjustment to divorce and to new family structures, while emphasizing the need for children to be able to freely love both parents.
When I finished the book, I literally felt dazed for a moment, realizing that for damn near every single item on the 50-item list, what has been done to the kids in our situation was the exact opposite of what is healthy and loving for them. Gary and the kids have been treated to the 50 most effective ways to make it impossible for the kids to adjust and to make it as painful and unbearable as possible, for as long as possible.
And for what? So a jealous, emotionally undeveloped, and selfish person can siphon some sense of satisfaction by repeatedly derailing the kids’ adjustment to something that wasn’t their fault in the first place? What kind of parent finds any enjoyment in deliberately hurting their own children?
Here are some tried and true strategies to make sure the kids have gaping wounds that never heal after a divorce:
Lie to them frequently. About everything.
Make them feel guilty for loving the other parent. Interfere with their time with the other parent as much as possible.
Pump the kids for information when they return from time with the other parent. Tell the kids that they must not love you if they are reluctant to spill details for which you are squeezing them about their other parent.
Make the kids your confidante and unwilling therapist by dumping all your problems and details about the divorce onto them. Tell them all about your next court date, filing, motion, etc., then the kicker: tell them they can’t talk to their other parent about it.
Litigate, litigate, litigate. Use the family court system as center stage for your personal vendetta against the other parent.
Tell the kids to hide things from their other parent, particularly things you did wrong, like losing all the kids at a crowded amusement park or letting them fall into a swimming pool because that whole supervision thing is such a bore.
Censor the kids’ phone calls with their other parent. Follow them around the house with the phone if you need to.
If the other parent has moved on and you refuse to, then make up lies about the stepparent and tell the kids the stepparent caused the divorce. Fall back on false allegations of sexual abuse if that doesn’t work.
Make it all about YOU. Kids are resilient, right? And they are young and trusting. They will buy your lies. For a while. When they get old enough to start questioning you, label them as troublemakers and aggressors, while you remain in your cozy role as the perpetual victim, the woeful single parent just doing your best.
I could go on. And on. And on. But just typing this is making me ill, because the kids have endured all of this and more.
The kids have been told for years now that it’s not okay to love their daddy, and that it’s not okay to love me. They have been punished for wanting to be with their father, and they have been bombarded with lie upon lie about both of us.
Yet, last night we all piled up and sat together talking, sharing stories, and we ended up laughing and hugging each other. Gary read them a book before bed, and they changed the story as they went to the way they liked it, no matter what was printed in the book.
Maybe that is what they will ultimately do: change the story to permit themselves the love they need and deserve with their father, with me, no matter what bitter ink has been used to write the story so far.