Adults often think that children aren’t listening, aren’t aware of what is happening. We feel, we hear and we see.
My parents separated when I was a toddler. I have very vivid memories of my childhood, mainly the break up and Dad moving out. I don’t want to share too much detail but our parents often told us to stay in another room while they spoke. But we sensed something was going on and it wasn’t pleasant.
We could hear the conversations.
(I have a full chapter dedicated to separation and divorce in my debut book, Broken Love)
People often say that children are resilient, they don’t understand, better this happens when they are this young etc. It doesn’t matter what age we children are. Breakups will always affect us.
If anything, children often conceal or bottle up emotions. Then parents can’t understand how they are disruptive at school, getting into trouble, anger issues and suddenly a rage filled teenager.
Children can become a ball between two parents, being kicked over and back. Parents are hurting and oftentimes, the children are caught between the tears and heartbreak. Trying to keep both parents happy but also gentle not to offend them.
Weekends are different, two homes instead of one.
Children don’t always like someone new coming into the home and it can become hostile.
As children, we need to be communicated with. We need to be told what is going on and why this family unit is being pulled apart. We need honesty and clarity.
For us, Marcus was disruptive in national school. He had anger issues as a child due to the separation. He took on the ‘Man of the house’ role at the age of six and wanted to protect Mam and I, even at that tender age.
The separation didn’t bother me until adulthood. I always understood that my parents were better off apart. And I made my peace with this at a very young age.
But it’s in my adult years that I realised what a profound effect the breakup had on me. I have said that I am not bothered ever having children…
I spoke to a therapist and realised why that is. I had a fear of my children having my childhood and did not want that. I felt I could ‘end the cycle’ by not having my own children. When I talked it through, I now know that my children won’t have my childhood and I should not live in fear.
While I always considered my childhood to be very carefree and innocent, there are aspects of it that were dark, emotionally painful and irresponsible, something I only had the courage to unlock in recent years. But I feel now I’ve unblocked those blockages. I cannot harbour my parents’ pain and I have let go of that feeling.
I spent many years dealing with grief after losing my brother and then my father when I was fifteen and sixteen. Their tragic deaths consumed almost a decade of my life. When I came to the point of acceptance, I felt such relief but then this internal anger and upset was within me. And I couldn’t express it. It was as though emotions were trapped. With reading, writing and therapy, I began to get vivid flashbacks from my childhood and I could identify what it was that was causing me this internal struggle.
With Dad being dead, I couldn’t talk to him in a way that I would have liked, face to face at the table having a cup of tea. So, I’ve had to have these conversations with him internally. And I have had to learn other ways of communicating. But it has worked.
I’ve been able to clear the anger, pain and sadness. I have had to challenge myself, tackle my fears and re-educate myself on my life and what I want going forward. I don’t have all the answers but I am enjoying the journey. I’m learning all the time and now I have this sense of excitement and adventure. But I am also learning to enjoy the present moment.
To conclude, children see, they hear and they feel. It doesn’t matter what age they are. Children are always children when it comes to separation. While parents are trying to navigate through an emotional break-up, it is important not to forget the children.
Communication, compassion and counselling.
Little Pocket of Love is available here: https://www.bookhubpublishing.com/product/little-pocket-of-love/
Broken Love is available here: https://www.bookhubpublishing.com/product/broken-love/
- I am not a psychologist or therapist, I am a girl sharing my own story that may resonate with you and help you along your own journey. Seek professional help, it’s the best investment you can make.