|Subject: effects of marital
I am recently separated from my wife and
my kids are not handling things very well (nor am I). I try to be strong
and affectionate when I am with them because I do love them dearly. My
question to you is, have you found within your experiences that children
in this position cannot handle criticism well and flaunt you in regards
to what you have taught them in the past?
Thanks so much for sending your
question. You sound like a very caring father. It must be distressing to
feel that guidance which you have given in the past is being disregarded
now. While your love for your children has not diminished, your family
situation has dramatically altered.
Marital separation, of course, affects
the whole family, but it can be especially stressful for a child, who is
forced by circumstances to accept a situation that is not of his own
choosing. A forced and unwanted choice is always frustrating for any of
us (adults as well), and it is a maxim in psychology that
"frustration leads to aggression". Additionally, many children
whose parents are separating or divorcing are in their pre-teen or
teenage years, which can be a challenging time for many other reasons.
Sometimes just keeping these considerations in mind can help us to
understand a child's behavior during stressful experiences. It is during
such times that a child most needs to hear that we understand,
even when the situation itself cannot be changed. And it's this kind of
understanding that can make all the difference in our relationships with
A key ingredient at this time is
communication, which needs to include active listening, acceptance of
feelings (both positive and negative) and undivided attention. Many
families have found counseling to be very helpful. Others have benefited
from weekly "family meetings", in which both positive and
negative statements can be made safely.