My parents divorced when I was 14 years old and it had a negative impact on my life. At the time I said I didn't care and that it was cool to have separated parents because I got two lots of presents at Christmas and birthdays. I didn't want to admit how hurt I was and how much it bothered me to see my parents apart.
After the divorce my dad moved away. 90 miles away. I could only see him during the school holidays and even then my biological mum would put restrictions on the time spent with him. Not only that but if my mum couldn't find someone to drive me the 90 miles then I wouldn't get to see my dad during those holidays.
It would be months before I saw him again.
The visits to see my dad meant a lot to me and while there I would behave (as well as a teenager can!) and try to be a good daughter. What I remember most about the visits though is not what I did with my dad while there (although I have some pretty awesome memories) but the pain I felt every time I had to leave. It was heartbreaking.
Packing up my things to go back home I would take as long as I possibly could secretly hoping that I would have to stay. I would shout and scream, tears would flow, but eventually I knew I had to get into the car. I hated getting into the car that would take me back home and saying goodbye to my dad, knowing that it would be months before I got to see him again.
That same feeling came back to me yesterday after visiting my dad. Even though I'm now an adult and I don't have to leave if I don't want to I still had that same gut-wrenching feeling about leaving. Every time I say goodbye to my dad it hurts. Every. Time.
This made me think about all the children out there whose parents' are going through a divorce. It makes me sad that they might be going through the same thing. As adults you need to realise the pain of divorce may ease for you or your partner but it may never go away for your children.
The things your children witness during a divorce will stay with them. If you argue in front of them they will either relive those moments later in life with their own partner or they will avoid partnerships altogether for the fear of arguing. If you call one another names in front of the children those names will take on a monster-like persona and come back to haunt your child every time they hear them.
My downward spiral began when my parents divorced. My attitude changed drastically and my behaviour went downhill. I became someone else and my family had to deal with it.
What I'm saying is if you're going through a divorce right now, or have just separated, and your child's behaviour is changing - talk to them. I lashed out at the people I loved because I hated what was happening. I may not have consciously cared but it bothered me deeply and what I needed at the time was an understanding ear, even if I didn't understand myself.
Please, I beg of you, talk to your children. Let them know that you still love them, regardless of the circumstances. And whatever you do don't use your children as pawns against one another. That only hurts the children.
Above all listen and pay attention. Slight changes in behaviour despite seemingly honest professions about being "okay" can indicate bigger issues. If you're there for your children you can get through the tough times together.