Overcoming Guilt about the Divorce


Paul Wanio, PhD, LMFT

Sometimes, an obstacle to listening to one's child is the fear that we will hear something that will produce sadness, anger or guilt in us.  It may also be difficult to listen to negative comments or complaints because of feeling the need to be the "perfect parent" and not wanting to hear that we are causing anymore discomfort to our child.  There can also be times when your child will see everything that you do as wrong and everything that the other parent does as right.  This can easily lead a parent to feeling overly sensitive and defensive.     

These emotional situations become obstacles only if you overreact due to taking your child's comments too personally, assume that you cannot handle the situation, assume that you are a "bad" parent or that you cannot make mistakes.  Having faith in your abilities as a parent, allowing yourself to make mistakes, being less critical of yourself and taking time to think things through will change obstacles into manageable challenges.     

     To meet these challenges, keep the following in mind:

   []  You're not perfect, and that's OK.

   []  You will make mistakes even when doing your best. 

   []  Divorce is like a death and sometimes the only thing that you can
       do is to just be there for your child and understand.  That's all.

   []  Your child's negative comments may simply be an expression of
       distress and not criticism.

   []  Your child's blaming of you may be a defense against feeling
       overwhelmed and not meant against you personally -- it is
       merely a young child's way of coping.  

   []  Change never happens as quickly as any of us want.  Acceptance
       and patience will do much to help you through this time.


   []  Listen to your child, even when what you hear is hard to accept. 
       Problems can only be dealt with if allowed to be out in the open. 
       It is that which is hidden that causes most of the trouble.

   []  Distress is less traumatic when met with love.

   []  One incident will rarely cause trauma.  It is the overall feeling,
       relationship and track record you have with your child that makes
       the difference.

   []  Keep things in perspective and you will not be overwhelmed.  You
        can handle most any one situation simply because it is just that -
        one situation.  There are few things that you will face that cannot be
        fixed, handled and lived with.  (After all, look at what you've managed
        to handle so far!).

   []  Tomorrow is another day.

By keeping these ideas in the back of your mind, you will be able to temporarily put aside your own feelings at the proper time and stay focused upon the feelings of your child.  This will not only benefit your child, but will contribute to your own self-esteem and coping skills.  This kind of self-discipline will keep you focused and feeling in control of your life.


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C. Paul Wanio, PhD, LMFT, is a psychotherapist in private practice in Lake Worth and Boca Raton, FL. He can be reached at DrPaulWanio@aol.com. He is also a contributor to the new ebook, How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook™ Guide to Preparing Your Children -- with Love! by Rosalind Sedacca, CCT. To learn more, go to http://howdoitellthekids.com. For additional articles on child-centered divorce, visit http://www.childcentereddivorce.com.