Let me introduce you to a friend who embodies just why these classes absolutely do help children!
Sarah is 30 years old, happily married, and about to start her own family. Her parents divorced when she was about 9, and they both tried to protect their children from the negative effects of divorce. Unfortunately her parents left her with emotional baggage that none of them realize is from the divorce and could easily have been avoided with some simple education. Sarah’s parents made three common mistakes when dealing with their kids after the divorce.
The result on the adult? Sarah tries to keep her conversations and dealings with each parent completely separate and does not like to talk about one to the other. At times this means not sharing parts of her life with each due to her fear of mixing these two worlds. On occasion she has lied to one about seeing the other, resulting in hurt feelings when the deception is discovered.
2. When Sarah would return from staying at her father’s house her mother would welcome her back with a heartfelt, “I missed you so much!” Good parent educators will teach you to never tell a child of divorce that you missed them. The problem is the child hears, “Mommy was sad and it was my fault.” (Nevermind that the child is always missing one of their parents.)
The result on the adult? Sarah continues to feel responsible for her mother’s emotions. Comments her mother makes, that an outsider would consider neutral, Sarah interprets as being statements of unhappiness and assumes her mother blames her for these perceived disappointments. She accuses her mother of using guilt trips. Her mother doesn't understand why her daughter seems so touchy all the time. The mother-daughter relationship is filled with tension due to this dynamic and neither of them realizes it is a result of the divorce.
3. When Sarah returned from her father’s another typical question was, “Did you have fun?” As innocent as this seems, ask yourself, what do you expect your child to say? If they say yes, you might ask for more details. You are now in dangerous territory. Your child has to decide what they can tell you. Will you be jealous that you missed out on something fun? Are you going to complain that Daddy gets to do the fun stuff while you have to be the homework police? What if the plans involved a new significant other of whom you do not approve? Also, what if the answer to the question,”Did you have fun?” is unenthusiastic or even a “no”? Now what litany of follow-up questions are you going to launch at your nine year old?
The result on the adult? See number one above.
The point is there are things that any parent might say on any given day that seem completely innocent. What the TN Parent Education Seminars show parents is how harmful these simple statements become when said in a divorce situation.
No one likes to be told what to do, and being told how to parent is especially difficult. But kids don’t come with manuals and child psychologists have learned a lot about how divorce effects children in both the short and long term. Your children love both their parents and have every right to continue to do so. So while you sit through your court mandated class just remember how you behave now will indeed have long term consequences for your future relationship with your children. You do have a choice of providers and there is a range in quality of content and instructors. Please see the For Parents page on the DivorceBetterKnoxville.com for more guidance, because there is a better way!