December 2003

A Conscious Evolution Newsletter

 

 

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Dream Lucidity:
Find Oneself Dreaming

Surviving Divorce and Supporting Your Kids Through Tough Times

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Chart Interpretation,
Part 5

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No Longer Here,
But Still With Me

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Peace on Earth

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Volume 2, No. 12

Opinions presented in Metamorphosis are those of their respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of others associated with the newsletter.

 

Surviving Divorce
and Supporting Your Kids
Through Tough Times

by Kelly (Veneo)

 

any of us have been through divorce. Although divorce rates in the United States appear to be inching downward from the high they reached in the late 1970s — a rate that led social scientists to project that 50 percent of modern American marriages would end in dissolution — divorce still has or will change the relationships within a large percentage of families. I am both a child of divorce (my parents split when I was 15), and a parent who has been through divorce myself. My husband has been divorced too. This is our second marriage, and we each have one child from our first marriages: I have a 15-year-old son, and he a 17-year-old daughter. I’d like to share a bit about what this process was like for me and how we have gotten to where we are now with our kids. In this article, I’ll focus on my son, Tom.

et me introduce my background a bit so you’ll know where I’m coming from in a professional capacity. I have a bachelor’s degree in child development/family relations, and I have worked in the psychiatric field for 10 years on an inpatient child and adolescent psychiatric unit, as well as serving for a year as an Intensive Case Manager with these same kinds of kids and their families in the community. I’ve also worked in daycare as a kindergarten teacher, and as a therapeutic staff support person for an autistic girl.

ut even with my training and experience, I’d have to say that going through my divorce was the toughest thing I’d been through in my life. My parents’ divorce was also very hard on me, but going through my own divorce was the lowest point in my life … when I hit rock bottom. Astrologically, I was having a Pluto transit at the time, so I’d have to say it was indeed a very transformational time. Unfortunately, since it was the lowest point in my life, I wasn’t taking it very well. I had professional skills in family relations, but I still wasn’t able to behave in the best way towards my ex-husband, since he was having an affair and being very hurtful towards me. It took a good year before I got over the initial hurt enough to stop trying to hurt him/them back.

t was ugly because we were battling back and forth, doing our best to hurt one another. Sad to say, that year was very rough on our son, Tom. Thankfully, my mother, stepfather and other family members were there to help support him emotionally during this time, since neither his dad nor I was in the right space to be there for him as much as he needed us. The support of other loving people, besides the parents, can be a vital part of helping children make it through their parents’ divorce.

oth Tom and I have been through a lot of changes in the past five years, including a move out of state and away from his father two years ago. That was another tough time for both my son and myself, since my ex tried to talk Tom into staying and living with them. Tom was very torn, and I didn’t make it much easier on him because I was so frantic and worried about losing him and couldn’t imagine going without him. He’d always been with me …

om decided to come with me, which I was happy about because I didn’t feel it was in his best interests to be with his dad at that point in time. His dad was drinking pretty regularly (at least every time Tom was with him) and had a hair-trigger temper, among other things. I didn’t feel Tom would be free to be himself, living with his dad, and would turn out to be an angry young man. Once Tom told his dad that he wanted to go with me, his dad didn’t stop him and custody arrangements were made.

have gone out of my way to arrange visits between Tom and his father when we have been back in my hometown, and I have tried to help their relationship as much as I could, but his dad hasn’t made much of an effort to maintain a relationship with him. I had the sense that it was almost too difficult for his dad to do this, since he didn’t see Tom on a day-in and day-out basis, and I tried to help Tom understand where his dad was coming from. I didn’t want Tom to think or feel that it was anything he had done. The loss or diminishing of a relationship with one of the parents is a frequent problem for children of divorce, with no easy answers. The best thing a parent can do is to try to help the child understand the other parent in the most positive light possible.

nfortunately, it seems something almost always happens to Tom when he is with his father — accidents mostly, which cause his father to go off the deep end, at which point he becomes verbally aggressive about my current husband and me. The worst instance happened this past spring, when Tom was 14. Tom had fallen off his skateboard and wanted his stepfather to look at his wrist because he is a chiropractor and could help. Tom’s dad did not react well to that and started in with the verbal cuts towards us.

om was tired of hearing it, and assertively told his dad to stop talking about us like that because we are not like he thinks we are. His dad, who had been drinking, could not hear that and started knocking him around and verbally threatening his life … telling him that he was not allowed to speak back to him in his house. He told Tom to call us and have us come and get him. When we picked him up, he was so shaken by what had happened that it took him a half hour to calm down.

t took me a while to know what I was going to do about what had happened, because I didn’t want Tom to be in his dad’s physical presence again without some sort of backup safety net. But knowing my ex (a Leo) as I do, I didn’t really want to make a complaint to the police, because involving the police could possibly make matters worse in the long run. If father and son were ever to have a relationship that could be worked on and through, taking matters to the police was not the answer, I decided. In situations like these, I think it is best to take the time to consider the possibilities and personalities. Keep in mind that the goal is not to hurt the ex-spouse but to support the child, who naturally feels a need for both his biological parents.

hat I decided to do was to have Tom write about the incident while it was fresh in his mind, so I could save the documentation for future use if the need should arise. I also called my lawyer to let her know of this incident, in case my ex decided he wanted to go to court at any time in the future or decided he was going to try to get custody. I knew that it would be a while before I had to try to figure out how future visitation would work, but I had no doubt that the answers would come when the time arrived.

he time came in early October of this year. We were going to my hometown for four days, and since I am obligated to let my ex see his son when we are in town, I arranged for my son to see his dad at his grandmother’s house. It was not an easy thing to ask of my former mother-in-law, because I knew she would have her reservations about the whole incident and what happened and would be in an uncomfortable position. I also knew that she would not have known about this incident (without my telling her) and would want to defend her son.

o make matters worse, when I called her to ask her to do this, I found out that her pancreatic cancer had returned and she had just gotten home from being in the hospital for a month. I told her that the only other option I had was to arrange for the father-son visit to take place at my mom’s place, because Tom didn’t feel safe being alone with his father. At that, she agreed to have him come to her place, and I was to pick him up later that evening. The night went without incident but was awkward, and Tom could tell his dad was not happy about how it was arranged. Still, he didn’t fight me on it. It was very difficult for me to stand up to my ex like that and not be intimidated by his possible response, and to ask this of his mother who is ill. But I didn’t feel it would be in my son’s best interests to risk another visit with his father alone after what had happened during the previous visit.

also have some hope that having the grandmother involved in the visits might initiate some long-needed resolution and healing between my ex and his mother before she passes. And I hope that Tom’s dad will get the help he needs to stop drinking and deal with his issues so that he can be a better father to our son. Tom would like to live with his dad someday, but I am determined that isn’t going to happen until his dad is in a place where he can be the father that my son needs and deserves.

t’s not easy being parents and doing what’s best for our kids at all times … especially when going through separation and divorce. It’s good to acknowledge when we need help, and to get that help for our kids and ourselves. In our case, both sides of my son’s extended family have pitched in to help out when Tom or I have needed or asked them to. There is no shame seeking that help, although it may not always be easy to do. After all, don’t we really want what’s best for our children?

hey need parents who are there to listen, talk to, and help them deal with the issues they are facing in their lives. And when one or the other of the parents has issues that interfere with that, other caring adults can sometimes help both the children and the parents through the tough times. Children need us to spend time with them and accept them for who they are, not who we want them to be. I know that times are tough and many parents work, which makes spending time with your children difficult at times, but they really need us more than they’ll even let you know.