Jul 21, 2016

How do I talk to my children about divorce

Category: Family Issues
Posted By: Andrew
Question: My wife divorced me after years of putting up with my issues with combat related PTSD. It wasnt until I resorted to drug use and became full blown addict that she became fed up. Now our children blame her for the divorce and see me as the good guy.  She cries because of the things they say to her. It's not fair. I'm the bad guy and she has done nothing but make the hard choices to care for and protect our children.

They are 6 and 9 so they don't have a clear understanding of the situation. Their mother is an amazing woman and mother and doesn't deserve to keep suffering because of me. I want to help make it right. Would it help if I told them more about the situation? I don't mind being the bad guy in this because it's the Truth. What can I do?

 

Answer:

Dear Andrew,

Thank you for your very touching question.  I am so sorry that you and your family have had such a very difficult time.

I do think it would help your children if you told them more about the situation.  Not because I think you need to take all the blame and make yourself out to be the bad guy, but just because it is a complicated situation which your children need help understanding.  Although they are quite young, they will be able to understand a child-friendly version of the truth.  That is to say, not something too watered down but more something that they can relate to with words which aren’t too sophisticated.  For example, something very scary happened to me while I was away and sometimes when you see things that are too awful/scary (whatever the truth is) its very hard to recover.  I don’t know enough about your situation to be able to give it more words but I hope that gives you an idea of the level at which to pitch it for them.

I do think that it is quite important that you don’t just take all the blame and switch the ‘bad guy’ from their mother to you.  .  I think it is very generous of you to wish to protect your wife by taking all the blame but in a way it is no better than the current situation, just a reversal of roles.  In order to make sense of their lives and their family’s situation they need more detail than just being told of a black and white world that is made up of good and bad.  They need to be helped to understand the complexities that have led to the difficulties you have all faced.

I would also say that it is possible that they are giving their mother a hard time because they are worried about you.  Children are much more sensitive than we tend to give them credit for.  I wonder if your children have sensed what a difficult time you are having and are worried about you.  This means that they will give their mum a hard time partly because they are concerned and wish she would look after you too and partly because they can see that she is the stronger of the two of you at the moment and can bear their feelings of sadness and anger.

Just to say that there is support available from different sources and it might be an idea to make use of it.  There is often AA or NA support for families or organisations that support families affected by drug use.  There also may well be support available through organisations specifically set up to help people and the families of people with PTSD.

I really hope this helps and I wish you and your family the best in managing the situation.

Very best wishes,

Ryan



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