There’s a lot of attention on how to eradicate the stigma that is attached to depression and mental health, but what about the stigma that is often attached to the idea of single parents, blended families or children of divorced parents?
There seems to be this underlying message that kids can’t thrive or are somewhat damaged if their parents can’t stay together, however this is often further from the truth.
The reality of raising children is that the messages they receive about life are what are important, not whether it matches some indoctrinated perception of a ‘right path’ life is supposed to follow, judged by society.
When we look at how life unfolds for everyone, we see that every single person on this planet experiences events that don’t go to plan and don’t reach the ideal of how we would have liked it.
If you stay in a relationship this results in a child learning certain things that lead them to experience ups and downs in their life.
Leaving a relationship will result in the child learning certain things that lead them to experience ups and downs in life, because the reality is, we ALL experience ups and downs, regardless of the direction life takes.
We want parents to see that circumstances don’t make a person happy, it’s their mindset that does.
Rather than continually focussing on kids having a pre-conceived ‘right life’ to aspire to, we need to educate our kids on how to handle any event in life.
In life, circumstances can change at the drop of a hat. Ways of living that we adapted to and have become our norm can be taken away from us at any time. A boss can sack you. A friend can decide that they don’t want to be friends or may do the wrong thing by you. In this case a parent can decide for whatever reason, that the current relationship they are having no longer works.
We need to teach our children:
- How to become resilient about life’s changes
- How to disassociate their self-worth from events that don’t meet their ideal or when life changes
- How to see the hidden good in the bad – the value that we received from the new experiences we encounter
- How to learn new skills or abilities from changes that occur in life
- How to keep in touch with the other parent and continue to have a relationship with that other parent (or to understand that if the other parent doesn’t want to see them, then that’s not about them)
For parents, we need to develop the skills to:
- Give our children specific strategies to practice that teach them to think differently about life’s unwanted events
- Help our kids to feel they can speak to us honestly about how they are feeling about the change of events they are experiencing
- Help them to focus on new goals now that life has changed and help them to work out ways to move forward from here
- And above all, parents need to try their hardest to work through their own thoughts and feelings about the change in life’s circumstances, so they can hep their child to naviate through these changes too.
While there is a lot of work that may need to go into how these lessons get learnt and taught when a family separates, if you are to look at the basics of what I’m suggesting, you will see that all of these lessons and skills kids and parents need, are actually no different to what a married couple with kids need to learn too.
That’s because after a relationship breakdown between parents, life has changed, it isn’t damaged. Life is going in a different direction, not a wrong one.
This is going to happen in life and if we can equip our children with the skills to deal with those times in life, then the actual event of parents separating, can actually be an important lesson for a child to receive on many levels.
What’s needed for our children is an ability to handle life, whatever the event. Because life doesn’t go wrong, it just presents us with experiences from which to grow and learn.
Live, learn, share, grow, evolve. This is the purpose of life. We just need to show our children how to do this without stress, regardless of what the circumstances are, and then we will see children with a happy life, not just if mum and dad are together or not.