Neuman recalls, "This 13-year-old kid once said to me, 'I feel, now that my parents are separated, that Idon't exist.'"While most children don't articulate their feelings so strongly -- in fact, most shrug or say "okay"if asked how they're coping with a parental split -- therapists who work with children of divorce agreethat divorce makes kids question who they are, where they came from, and where their lives are headed.
He once waited up for her when she was out on a date and asked, "How did it go? Later, the two discussed her difficulty ending the relationship.The child urged herto say goodbye to the man she'd been seeing, and Eva is now moving toward doing so, in part because she was so impressed with her son's observations.But despite such late-night chats and an occasional "flurry of activity" on her social calendar, Eva hasno interest in introducing any man to her sons."Some of the people I've met have said, 'Why don't my son and I meet you somewhere? remembers the conversation she had with her two sons following one of their regular visits with herex-husband.Both boys were brimming with news about Daddy's new friend, Joanne.
But when she referred to their father as someone who was dating, the children were quick to insist that she was wrong."Daddy told us he won't date until we're in college," they declared.
"She's just a friend."Tears followed some time later, when the father asked his sons for "permission" to allow Joanne move in with him. C., author of Helping Your Kids Cope with Divorce the Sandcastles Way.
Given the power to vote on the relationship, the children cast "no" ballots and told their dad that, per his earlier declaration, Joanne couldn't move in until after they went away to school. Neuman is creator of a divorce therapy program for children mandated for use in family courts by many states.
The story illustrates the confusion and anxiety children often feel when parents, eager for some measure of happiness and success in a new relationship, struggle over how much distance to place between their children and a newly developing romance."Seeing a parent date is an odd scenario for kids," says M. "It sometimes hammers home the message that our parents are never going to get back together."The power of the reunion fantasy is not to be underestimated, says Neuman, observing that some childrencling to the belief that their parents will get back together even after one parent has remarried.
The reasonis simple: A child's own identity is very much tied to that of his family.
When the family disintegrates, achild's sense of self is threatened, even if he maintains strong ties to both parents.