Question (from Facebook community): “My five-year-old daughter just called me from her dad’s crying…now I am crying…this is so, so hard. How do people get through it??”
I so get this. Never in a million years did I think I would be dealing with this kind of thing. How you handle this will depend on your relationship with your ex-husband, the age of your children, and the severity of the damage going on. But here are some general ideas to try.
Listen. When your child calls you crying or comes home and gives you an earful, take note. I don’t believe for the most part that children make stuff up like this. And I believe as mothers, we are able to discern what’s true and what’s overblown. Don’t discount the tears or the pleas for help. God made you the mother for a reason.
Confront. If possible, try talking to your ex-spouse about the situation, parent to parent. In my case, that’s no longer a possibility, so it’s hard for me to speak to this one. But if you’re at an amicable place in your relationship with your children’s father, this is the place to start. Share your concerns. Ask him if he has ideas of how you two can help your children adjust better. Perhaps family counseling might be in order. Perhaps a small break from as-frequent visits if your child is really suffering each time she goes. Try to brainstorm together, reminding him and yourself that what you both should be focusing on is what is best for your child right now and long-term, not what we want.
Get help for the kids. I have embraced the now-famous saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I’ve had to. I no longer consider myself to be co-parenting. I am a single mother. I am parallel-parenting at best. And I need help. My son spends time with four men from our church who are showing him what it means to be a man who loves and pursues God. And my daughter needs other women too. She’s got a couple small group leaders and she meets with my mentor. Both of my children, especially as children of divorce, need other adults to pour into them and help them walk through this season, to help them see what it looks like to be emotionally and relationally healthy. This didn’t just happen though. I ask and I set things up and I thank and then I ask again. Even if I’m annoying, I’m going to do this for my kids.
And if necessary, get legal help for the kids. All states are different, but if you believe visitation should be suspended for a time or indefinitely, check with your lawyer on what would be involved.
Get support for yourself. More than anything else that has gone on in my marriage and its ending that has broken my heart or angered me – and there has been so very much – nothing has done my damage to my soul than seeing what has gone on with my children. Seriously, this mama bear is mad. I carry around a huge weight when it comes to my children…how to parent them through this now…and what might come of their futures. I talk with friends and I read as much as I can. This is the only issue that still makes me cry. Surround yourself and your children with healthy families, with other mothers you respect. Share your heart and your burden. Ask for advice. Ask for help.
Give them to Jesus. As my kids walk out to visitation, almost each time I say something like (from Psalm 121), “God guards your coming and your going!” That’s the shorthand we have for, “God is with you. God will be with you. God is watching every move. God will get you through all this.” It is only through reminding myself that God created them, God numbers their days, and God loves my children infinitely more than I do that I can keep walking, that I can let them go out that door each time. Pray for them. Pray over them. Tell God how scared you are for them, how sad you are for them. Ask him to protect them, to heal them, to strengthen them. Ask God to help them make good choices in their future despite what’s going on now. Ask God to redeem their pain.
I believe one of the reasons that God says he hates divorce in the book of Malachi is this very thing — it breaks his heart that our children are put through the wringer. But in Exodus 15:26b, God reminds us very clearly, “I am the Lord, who heals you.” And he will heal our children too.
If this post helped you, “Moving On as a Christian Single Mom” is for you, found here.