The Block Island Times

Children of divorce

By Sheridan Fisher Carley | Feb 13, 2013

Václav Havel once said, “the more unpropitious the situation in which we demonstrate hope, the deeper the hope. Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out. It is also this hope, above all, which gives us the strength to live and continually try new things even in conditions that seem as hopeless as ours do, here and now.”

Children of divorce must have hope. There are many reasons why couples get divorced: betrayal, money, incompatibility, growing in different directions and maybe abuse (mentally or physically), etc.

As a teacher, I have had many parents inform me of a pending divorce in private, which I was grateful for, so special care and understanding could be ministered to their child. There were just as many parents that did not inform me. Eventually there were changes in the child’s behavior and through observation you try and understand, but it is not always easy.

Teachers must recognize their responsibility to continually screen the children for symptoms and abnormal behaviors that may indicate special needs. Observation does provide a teacher the information about the child being observed in a variety of circumstances on a regular basis. This assessment can only benefit the child.

All children are unique. There are no two alike. They do not behave the same way in divorce. Some become introverted, some develop behavior problems, some have a poor self concept and may believe that possibly it is their fault at some level that their parents are separating.

After interviewing many divorced parents, many said they wanted to be a better person but could not do it unless they got a divorce. They wanted to fix their problem and be a better person themselves so that they could help their children to better understand. Their feelings of anger, confusion and depression are part of an ongoing evolution.

While they licked their wounds, one mom stated: “Divorce is just a stressful juggling act.” Everyone needs support and hope. Nothing ever stays the same and in most cases, change is for the better. To all the brave people who have gone through a divorce, all want peace, hope and understanding, and the ones with children — stabilization!

The first example of a divorce that affected our family was a ninth grade boy that went to school with my son Thom. Both boys went to Bergen Catholic (all boys) and met playing basketball. He is probably one of the closest children I have known personally and spent an inordinate amount of time with over the four years of high school. He is part of our family and my third son. For the high school years Keith lived with our family much of the time. In the winter his commute to home was far. The snow in the winter and a demanding basketball schedule along with academics were grueling. It was more in his interest to live with our family.

During the four years, Keith was also having a hard time going home because his parents decided to get a divorce. Unfortunately, it was also a bitter one. His parents were both loving caring people but perhaps had married very young and grown apart. Keith kept wanting to discuss this with us and wanted to make sense out of it. Why was this happening to him?

Growing up he was given everything and this split came very hard over Christmas one year. He wanted to spend it with our family. He said it was too sad to go home. I called his mom and she totally agreed with him. She wanted him to have a happy Christmas.

Although I knew it broke her heart, she asked me if it would be possible. So along with all our crazy relatives, a 6-foot, 8-inch, 240-lb. forward came for Christmas dinner and was delighted with his place at the table. As the next two years went by, he came to some understanding and managed to accept what was happening at home.

This divorce, coupled with the death of his mother 10 years later has had an impact on his adult life. Compassion and understanding, hope and communication are so important. And in life there are so many twists, turns and bumps anyway, just add the divorce factor and sometimes I am sure it is devastating.

To end on a light note, my father Thom’ Fisher used to say: “Love is blind, marriage is the eye-opener. But there is always hope.”

’Til the next time…

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