A few weeks ago we celebrated Halloween. I love Halloween. Not just for the candy but for the good old scary fun and all the costumes. It’s a fun day with your kids and a great opportunity for photos and memory making. It also is a great day for pranks. I’m not always a fan of pranks because they often hurt someone’s feelings but this prank was so interesting and it really hit home for me.
Jimmy Kimmel asked parents to video their kids being told that their candy was gone and that their parents ate it all while they were asleep. Wow, the responses were amazing. The reactions of the kids were everything from angry and violent to horrified and hysterical to calm and understanding. And then it hit me. People are people. Kids are kids. Personalities are personalities. And OMG.
For years I thought my step-kids master plan was to make my life miserable. But over the years, as they’ve grown we’ve slowly bonded, we’ve communicated and we’ve come to terms. What I wish I had known then was that it wasn’t me. It was them. Some kids handle crises better than others do. And let’s face it; divorce is a crisis for everyone. We all handle it differently.
This may sound crazy but if you have a child or a step-child that doesn’t handle change well, or stress well or anything well then you have to use special tactics to survive. My stepsons were monsters. My stepdaughter took it all in stride. It didn’t mean that she liked me and they didn’t. It wasn’t personal. The boys just didn’t have the personality type to easily cope with the change.
The biggest problem for me was that I felt so guilty about putting them through all the changes so I over compensated with kindness and affection. They in turn threw that in my face and my feelings were hurt. That led to a landslide of other issues and none of us handled them with any clear cut understanding of each other’s needs. In the end we all survived but I wonder what I would have done differently had I understood that I was not the problem.
These boys had problems with their Dad too not just me. They had problems when they were at their mom’s house and with their mom’s new husband. But it was more than that. They had problems with their teachers and their sports coaches. Even with their friends there were always problems.
I chalked it up to suffering because they had gone through their parents divorce and new marriages and they had to deal with all the issues that go with that.
On the flip side, my stepdaughter and my two kids took things far better. They weren’t happy with everything but they still came to the dinner table without a fight, they did their homework, they got good grades, they played sports and had friends. I don’t know why I didn’t see it before. There was nothing I did to make them the way they turned out. It’s the way they are individually wired.
The videos of the kids whose parents ate their candy were eye opening. Some kids screamed at their parents, they cried hysterically and even hit their parents. In contrast, some kids took it in stride. One little girl said, “that’s ok I just want you to be happy but next year maybe we can share.”
This is not a claim that I’m an overnight expert. It’s a hindsight that I’d like to share. Give yourselves a break. You are the parent and/or the stepparent of little people who have their own individual personalities. They are wired the way they are wired. You’re children would be the same if you were still married. The best thing you can do for them is to help them find an outlet for coping.
Do you believe that divorce can have a negative impact on children? Do you think that children who are more emotionally resilient handle the divorce of their parents in a “roll with the punches” sort of way?