When I got divorced in 2005, my son was 2 years old. As a result, we did not have to explain much to him about the reasons we were getting divorced, etc. Most of my clients, however, are not so lucky; therefore, on a very regular basis I have to work with my clients on developing a shared narrative– a script that both parents will share with their children about why they are going to separate. The main points we want to share with kids are: (1) it is not their fault; (2) they will always be loved by both parents, who will continue to be involved in their lives; and (3) to the best extent possible, the parents are going to work together to minimize the disruptions to their children’s lives.
No one gets married with the expectation that it is not going to work out. Unfortunately, half of us will not succeed in keeping our first marriage together. How we write our divorce story is important, not just for us on a personal level, but for our children and peers. Life is full of disappointments and setbacks, but you have a choice to either wallow in self-pity and/or anger, or try your best to mitigate the damages and move on with dignity and grace. My hope is to help all my clients choose the latter option.
After the dust has settled from your divorce, and you have hopefully moved to a better place, where you find yourself fortunate enough to have a second chance at falling in love, you will once again find yourself in a critical teaching moment with your kids. As parents, we are modeling behavior for our children, and how we behave when dating, introducing partners to them, etc. is all being absorbed by them, which is why we urge people to be careful and not have a revolving door of people that might make children think that nothing is permanent, that every relationship is transient, and that love is just a temporary thing that comes and goes.
For years, my ex-husband and I have managed to shield our son from our dating lives. But obviously at some point, I knew that if I found someone I thought was special, I would have to let that person in and make introductions. Slowly and carefully, I will have to make that switch from protecting my treasure to sharing him. As this happens, I will have to start to answer questions about how someone falls in love and why. It seems so easy– you become friends, you get to know each other, you start introducing one another to your other friends, colleagues, neighbors, etc. But for a child who has never seen his parents share any affection either together or with another, for a child who has no recollection of being part of an intact family, these seemingly innocent and normal steps that adults take when they are falling in love, can raise a million questions.
The ultimate question, which not just children, but even adults will start to ask at some point, is how serious is this relationship? If we could only have a crystal ball, how easy it might be to answer this question… The fact is no one will ever be able to tell how permanent a relationship will be, so all you can do is give it your best shot while proceeding with caution. Just remember, the love story you write the second time around is not just for you– you are actually scripting a love story that will leave a lasting impression on your children. Don’t be afraid to write the story, just make sure you the write the best story ever!