Talking to kids about divorce


#1

I recently divorced my abusive husband. During the process, we didn’t say anything to the kids, because we didn’t know how things would turn out, and there was no point worrying them with details. I moved out, with the children, over a year before we actually went to court.

Now my ex-husband keeps talking to the children about the divorce. They are both young elementary age, and don’t understand what he is telling them. I think he is using them as a sounding board because he doesn’t have any adults to talk to anymore.

Anyway, while it would have been better if he had never raised some of these topics, I feel some need to clarify at least a little. For example, my daughter informed me a couple days ago that just because we are civilly divorced, doesn’t mean we aren’t husband and wife anymore. Technically, she is correct, pending a declaration of nullity, but she can’t make distinctions, and she thinks that her father and I can make her a baby sister, which she really wants.

Now, I don’t want to enter into a whole discussion of the annullment process with a little girl, because how is she to understand that her father and I may never have really been married in the first place? It’s just a minefield.

Obviously I don’t want to discuss specifics about the abuse, either. “Mean and bossy” is about as far as I’ve felt comfortable going, and that was when we moved out. They absolutely understood it, because they lived it. They have really settled in during the last year+, and have forgotten what it was like when we all lived together. Their father only “babysat” when we lived together, and now he tends to be a disneyland dad.

Does anyone have any suggestions or btdts? Thanks.


#2

Focus on the kids.

As a child of divorce, I suggest you stick to things like:

Sometimes mommies and daddies cannot live together in the same house. That does not mean that you did anything wrong. This is between mommy and daddy.

It does not mean mommy and daddy don’t love you. Mommy and daddy both love you very much, and always will. You are very precious and mommy wants to do the right thing for you. And, sometimes that means doing hard things, like living apart from daddy.

Don’t waste your time trying to explain all the rest to a young child. Wait until they are tweens. They will get it when they are around 12-13 years old and you can have a conversation with them them.

Keep affirming that you love them, that daddy loves them, and that they didn’t have anything to do with the break up.


#3

How would you suggest replying to some of the bizarre stuff that comes at me, like “Why did you steal Daddy’s money?” Just consistently redirect? I did go so far as to tell them that when two people are married, everything they earn during the marriage belongs to both of them, even if only one person’s name is on it. So really all we are doing is putting my name on my half.

I don’t want to say too much, but I also don’t want to say too little.

What really solved a lot of problems was when my son asked what court was like. I figured I could give him all the boring details, and then he would feel heard and answered instead of dodged. I listed all the people sitting behind me, and he asked, “Wait, all those people were there, and they knew you were divorcing Daddy, and they thought it was okay?” Yep. That bought me back a lot of my credibility.


#4

Your son is implying that divorce is not okay. You could validate that divorce is never good. Just sometimes its the less-bad choice. Divorce feels very bad to a child so you can validate that its not God's plan. Gods plan is for two people to love each other, to lay down their lives for each other, forever. Sin causes divorce - like the sin of treating the one you promised to love very, very badly. You could recall some of the bad things they witnessed, and say that that is not how God wants families to live.

You can tell your children that if they are uncomfortable talking about the divorce with their father, they can tell him they don't like to talk about it.

I think when you go through annullment you will understand it better to explain it better. But you could say that annullment means that one or both of the people making the promise to love forever either did not mean it or were not capable of meaning it.


#5

If the children are elementary school age I very much doubt that they've completely forgotten the abuse in the home. I'm 25 and remember being 6 quite well. It may be good to get them into counseling so they can work on the issues with someone who's better trained. Their father is feeding them garbage, probably to redirect their questions towards him.


#6

Evelyn, everything that your husband is saying to your kids is not unique, so please remember not to take it personally. What he is doing wrong and is very stressful to the kids. I think that the best we can do is not engage them in their nonsense. The best thing that we can do is learn to laugh it off, roll our eyes, etc. Allow the kids to continue to see their dad. Help them to remember his good qualities, and ask them how they are feeling when they come home upset and confused. Let them find their voice so that they can learn to let him know that they are not interested in that garbage.

From talking to a couple of my kids’ teachers who have been divorced for a couple of decades, some people just aren’t able to move on. One teacher has been divorced for 35 years and her kids, now adults, are treated to his tearing her down and bemoaning how she ruined his life. Needless to say, he is not someone they choose to spend much time with.

I ignore 90% of what my ex throws my way, like it doesn’t even exist. I only deal with what needs to be dealt with, ie when he is picking them up, how we would like to handle splitting the holidays etc. He gets zero feedback from me when he gets into a verbal tirade. I always just say I am hanging up and then I do that.

Counseling for you and for the kids is your best bet. If there are school counselors or if your school has something like Special Friends or PIP, that is perfect for them too. Any chance for them to talk about their feelings and sort through the nonsense really helps.


#7

When daddy accuses mommy of stealing it's an indication he's tearing your reputation down in other ways. A good chance to talk to your children about all the "unpaid" work you did as a wife and mommy and how when a man and woman marry the man promises to share all his worldly possessions with her and God watched him make that promise. And if he had to hire someone to do all that work you did, he would not be able to afford such an expensive maid/babysitter/secretary/plumber/laundress, etc.

It's a real hard challenge when marriages end as kids are in elementary school. Most of my kids claim they don't remember the abuse. They don't even want to hear me refer to it in conversation. One told me that when I talk about it it makes it seem unimportant and they don't care. :eek: I'm the only one, apparently, who remembers what a horrible man he was. Even though they saw him treat his mother cruelly.

:shrug:

I'm the person they don't want to be around because daddy has all the fun video games, no rules and they don't have him telling them to do homework. Boyfriend can come over all the time till all hours. And teenagers don't seem to care who was there when they were throwing up all over the place when they were little and who stuck around and took care of them and who was out chasing skirts and ignoring them.

But he does lie about me. I can't defend myself. He's the hero. I'm the bad guy.

All the years of trying to make holidays special, buying them stuff at my own expense doesn't seem to have mattered.

I might as well have walked away for all the good being there did me.

Just a warning that this isn't unusual when they become teenagers. The kids who used to condemn daddy when they were kids now think he's wonderful now that they're omniscient teenagers.

(Sentence deleted by me on further reflection.) I thought when they got older they would see his behavior in its real light. Instead he and they have rewritten history. :eek:

No advice. Apparently everything I ever did was wrong in handling the abuse, the years of screaming and court battles. I just didn't buy my kids enough stuff to make them want to be at my house, it seems

Even though those were the same kids who would come back from his house in the last few years angry and slamming things down because of the behavior there.

Just tell the kids you didn't believe in divorce either. But you have a right not to live with someone who hates you. God doesn't want husbands to hate their wives. He told them to love their wives.

Just leave it at that. It makes him the "hater."

Enjoy the next few years before they turn into teenagers. No one warned me about this phase. Though people tell me if I can endure being treated like c--p for about 7 more years life will be better. Now they say the same things their father did to me and it really hurts worse from them.

They used to be such nice kids.

Don't mean to hijack a topic, but dealing with a man like this will change your kids in the next 10 years. I'd love to hear from people who went through this and are on the other end of the teen years when the children manipulate and use the whole situation to their own advantage and learn to play parents against each other and lose any ounce of gratitude they ever had.

(Paragraph deleted by me on further reflection.)

Who knew that given a choice between wii and their mother, wii would win.


#8

Evelyn: liberanmoso’s story goes to show why immediate, long term councelling is necessary.

Children need to have a grip on reality in an ugly situation. They need to process and deal with things themselves.

They are not privy to the emotional growth you went through to get out of that situation.

In the foster care system there’s devistating pattern. Those children who left on their own are likely to leave independence and accept a new family. Those who are taken out of their homes and eager to leave do ok in new homes. Those children forcibly taken out of their homes, no matter how bad the abuse…even witnessing their parent kill a sibling…will likely never tolerate a new family, will never bond, and will always desire to return to their parents.

Their minds literally malform around events to block out the things they cannot deal with. They then get set up for even more hurt by people looking to victimize them.

Lib. I’m not surprised your kids are acting that way. It may be decades, if ever, before they change. You did all you could and you need to really take your burden to God and get rid of the anger towards yourself, your children and your ex that is so clear in your post. The only person you can change is you. If you cannot even change how you feel about things…how it controls you…how in the world do you expect to influence your children?


#9

I did get my kids into counseling in the school. Problem is, under terms of the divorce, he had to agree to any psychiatric or psychological counseling for the kids. He would not go for that because it might make him look bad. (My supposition.)

It’s easier said than done to accept more rejection from the kids and change how I feel about it. Being rejected and thrown away by the people who mean the most to you in life is something I hope I never get good at or learn to accept with peace. THAT to me is wrong.

Being screamed at by teenagers because I “ruined their lives” after I was the one who worked 3 jobs to take care of them and keep one house intact is a little much. I thought a good example and stability was something to be emulated. But they don’t want my influence right now because that would imply self discipline, prayer, hard work, and actually having to see the truth about daddy.

The problem with a narcissist ex is he’s good at manipulating their minds and helping them malform their minds around what HE wants them to think.

I’ve been told by experts that someday they will really be angry at him when they realize how he played THEM. And he never acted in their best interests.

Meanwhile he sits and tries to pit them against each other. The oldest is on to his game.

For those going through this… limit your own contact with him as much as possible during divorce proceedings. That’s what you pay your lawyer for.

When they lose you, they lose their “emotional dumping ground.” Their sorrow over the loss of the relationship is because they now have to find someone new to dump on. Sometimes they pick one of the kids. So be careful.


#10

It's hard, I know. My dad was the no rules parents. Cake, ice cream, and movies every Friday. Now this stuff is starting to catch up. Like when he tried to talk my brother out of going to college. "my mom only wanted him to go because then she would keep getting child support. since he doesn't know what he wants to do, he should wait." He didn't look so good after that mess got cleaned up. And no rules tends to make for a not so clean environment, which is where my sister and I lost respect. We love him, but now we see through it, although my brother still really likes not having to be responsible at all. It sounds like you're going about it right. You don't want to spend a lot of time making him look like the bad guy. That catches up to you too. Just so long as your kids still love you, eventually they will get tired of you getting ragged on, when they can see that it's not true.


#11

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