Spoiled Children of Divorce


Exemplary Children of Divorce – Mark Manson

Here’s an except blogger Mark Manson wrote about his parents’ divorce in The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. Completely different from my own experience. Manson writes a blog giving dating advice and has published an article called “It’s not our parents’ fault” which doesn’t discuss Divorce at all.

from pp. 52-55

“And just when I had finally cleaned up my act and turned in my assignments and learned the value of good clerical responsibility, my parents decided to get divorced.

“I tell you all of this only to point out that my adolescence sucked donkey balls. I lost all of my friends, my community, my legal rights, and my family within the span of about nine months. My Therapist in my twenties would later call this ‘some real traumatic shit,’ and I would spend the next decade-and- change working on unraveling it and becoming less of a self-absorbed, entitled little prick.

“The problem with my home life back then was not all of the horrible things that were said or done; rather, it was all of the horrible things that needed to be said and done but weren’t. My family stonewalls the way Warren Buffet makes money or Janna Jameson fucks: we’re champions at it. The house could have been burning down around us and it would have been met with, ‘Oh no, everything’s fine. A tad warm in here, perhaps–but really, everything’s fine.’

“When my parents got divorced, there were no broken dishes, no slammed doors, no screaming arguments about who fucked whom. Once they had reassured my brother and me that it wasn’t our fault, we had a Q&A session — yes you read that right — about the logistics of the new living arrangement. Not a tear was shed. Not a voice was raised. The closest peek my brother and I got into our parents’ unraveling emotional lives was hearing, ‘Nobody cheated on anybody.’ Oh, that’s nice. It was a tad warm in the room, but really, everything was fine.

….

“When ‘real traumatic shit’ like this happens in our lives, we begin to unconsciously feel as though we have problems that we’re incapable of ever solving. And this assume inability to solve our problems causes us to feel miserable and helpless.

“But it also causes something else to happen. If we have problems that are unsolvable, our unconscious figures that we’re either uniquely special or uniquely defective in some way. That we’re somehow unlike everyone else and that the rules must be different for us.

“Put simply: we become entitled.

“The pain from my adolescence led me down a road of entitlement that lasted through much of my early adulthood.

….

“My trauma had revolved around intimacy and acceptance, so I felt a constant need to overcompensate, to proe to myself that I was loved and accepted at all times. And as a result, I soon took to chasing women the same way a cocaine addict takes to a snowman made out of cocaine: I made sweet love to it, and then promptly suffocated myself in it.

“I became a player–an immature, selfish, albeit sometimes charming player. And I strung up a long series of superficial and unhealthy relationships for the better part of a decade.

“I was often unemployed, living on friends’ couches or with my mom, drinking way more than I should have been, alienating a number of friends–and when I did meet a woman I really like, my self-absorption quickly torpedoed everything.



Estate Planning Help for Families of Divorce

Lawyers just do as they are told. If a ten times divorced rich guy shows up at the office and wants to leave all his money to his 3d wife and her hamster, the lawyer will write up the will that way. Rich people tend to love money and power, maybe just money. Often they don’t like their kids as much. Some people are just in denial that they’ll ever die. And, of course, there are hundreds of other stories about why children of divorce don’t receive an inheritance. Love is generally not equated with Loyalty in Divorced families the way it is in intact families.

After a divorced parent dies the grieving process for a Child of Divorce will also be different. A Will is a parent’s last words to his/her child. If there are no possessions or money this won’t be an issue. But, if no inheritance, no love, point blank. So the grieving process will bring up all the old crap from the divorce days/years/decades along with the current grieving process for a parent. Divorce is War. This is one of the many fall-outs from War usually decades after the War. Therapists don’t give a rats ass about the whole process because most therapists are 1) from intact families and 2) divorced themselves and so defensive that they will not worry themselves over this.

So, here is a start. The reviews are mixed and don’t really give much information about whether these books really are friendly to the kids. Different States have different rules and I don’t know if the books cover this. That’s why my Father maintained residency in Washington rather than California even though he had homes in both and had lived in Washington only a few years and had died in California. He wrote his will in Washington and it could have been contested in California.

Estate Planning for the Blended Family by L. Paul Hood Jr. and Emily Bouchard. (2012)

and

Estate Planning for Blended Families by Richard E. Barnes (NOLO Press, 2009)



Banning the “D” Word

Okay this is too much.  I thought that New Yorkers were intelligent.   I thought they liked to talk about stuff.  I thought that it was only the Man-Childs and Baby-Womans of the California Dreamin’ crowd who couldn’t put up with the feelings of real live children.

But, no Edna, the New York City Schools have decided to join the herd.  For religious reasons.

CNN reports that the public school systems in New York are planning on banning the word “Divorce” from all school tests.

For one, as any Child of Divorce knows, talking about one’s parents’ divorce is simply not done.  People can’t handle the info.  Shrinks especially. Except when discussing how those kids are so spoiled, they get everything they want, you know, because of the guilt.

For two, and this is because of “For one”, the word Divorce probably doesn’t exist on the tests in the first place because Children of Divorce probably didn’t graduate from College and so did not write the tests.

The kids now have my express permission to write “The Death of my Parents’ Marriage” in stead of Divorce as answers on all of their written tests.  When the teacher wants to discuss your suicidal feelings please write “The Death of my Parents’ Marriage destroyed my desire to live because I now know that the Love that they profess for me is a shallow and transitory thing and could change on a dime if I screw up in any way.  I may even have to pay alimony if I complain.”

Maybe Divorce is more Scorpio than Uranian.  You put it in that clump along with other House 8 social secrets that nobody can talk about.  Namely:  Sex, Death and Taxes.  Rather:  Daddy’s Girlfriends’ Big Boobs; Mommy’s Alcoholism, Depression and Early Death from Destructive Lifestyle choices;  Tax Deduction #1 and Tax Deduction #2; the School Administrators’ deep and darkest desires to silence all feelings except their own. And the biggest of all:  “Power Trips.”

Not only is “Divorce” the big elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about, but, so are the kids.  They’re just kids.  They’ll get over it.  Don’t let them ever, ever talk about it, at least.

The words on the list of 50 banned words are said to be “Loaded.”  Loaded, as in guns?  Read the article and be prepared to drop your jaw wide open in disbelief.  Here’s the paragraph which explains why “Divorce” can’t be allowed.

Halloween may suggest paganism; divorce may conjure up uneasy feelings for children in the midst of a divorce within their family. One phrase that may surprise many, the term “Rock ‘n’ Roll” was on the “avoid” list.



“A Separation”

The 2012 Oscar for Best Foreign Film was given to a movie made in Iran.  It’s called “A Separation.”  It’s also a movie about Divorce, but the Hollywood film scene thinks it’s a movie about a couple struggling to make a better life for themselves in a different country. 

Anyway, this isn’t another immigration story with a happy ending. Unless you want to move to Iran because artists and intellectuals there are capable of expressing deep thoughts.  The IMDb database describes it as:

A married couple are faced with a difficult decision – to improve the life of their child by moving to another country or to stay in Iran and look after a deteriorating parent who has Alzheimer’s disease.

If that’s what the U.S. viewer thinks this is the story he’s going to see he’s in for a rude awakening, especially if he’s a divorced parent.  Or, at least I think he might get an awakening.   Divorced parents are pretty stubborn people.  Hollywood certainly didn’t get it.  If it had it certainly wouldn’t have given an award to it.

So, during the first scene you see the couple explaining their divorce to a judge.  They both give their arguments.  Things get tense, the judge has to tell them to shut up a couple of times and then they file for the divorce which the wife wants and the husband doesn’t want.  They have a 12-year old daughter who wants to stay at home with the father and grandfather. 

The Mother goes to live with her parents and the Father is faced with having to hire someone to stay with his Father all day long.  He hires someone who is not comfortable with the job.  Things get worse and worse and the caretaker ends up leaving the grandfather in the house alone tied to the bed.  This leads to the Father coming home and getting really angry and shoving her out the door.   Pregnant, she falls and suffers a miscarriage.  The Father is taken into court for murdering the unborn child and the dirty laundry and guilt/innocence of everyone involved gets aired.

Where things get interesting from a Child of Divorce’s point of view is seeing the divorce through the 12-year old daughter’s eyes, of course.  Through all the emotional traumas both the parents’ flaws come to the forefront.  One can see that they are both good people and loving parents. One can also begin to see why they don’t get along.  One can also see that they can’t discuss the other’s flaws with each other.  And while they can’t talk to each other they can easily tell the daughter what they are thinking and feeling.  She then relays the message because, as a 12 year old she is trying to figure the whole situation out herself.  The flaws sort of seem like trivial differences.  The daughter can see the games that men and women play with each other long before she learns about this from her own relationships as is natural. 

The daughter’s presence was strongly felt throughout, but I realized that her point of view was never shown until somebody asked her a question and the camera stayed on her face and she just stared off blankly not saying anything.  There it was.  The amazing silence!

After that I was emotionally involved with her.  Divorce is an extremely emotional experience about relationship failure, but during divorce people don’t think about feelings or relationships, they talk and they talk and they think it will all be okay once the papers are signed.  They are intent only on the action of splitting, even if it means splitting the kid in half.   The way the movie handles the silences and the communications is unbelievably brilliant.   The last scene brings an extreme emotional shock which brings this idea of Silence and the impossible feelings that exist within Divorced families. 

 What was even more shocking was to be watching the movie in a theater in California with mostly older couples.  California being the Divorce capital of the world, I can only assume there were some couples were working on second and third marriages in that room.  Either way, the air in the room was thick when I walked out, and, nobody was talking.  I hadn’t felt that in a long time because my parents have been dead a long time.  It would always lead to my step-mother making a weird sucking sound in her throat and to my Mother havin to go out and get drunk.  My Father would act as if the family were normal.  It involved guilt and denial and blame.  I always knew that life would be easier if I just avoided talking at those points.



Death vs. Divorce
February 6, 2012, 12:17 am
Filed under: Abandonment, Adolescence, Authority, Blame, Death of a Parent, Denial, Guilt, Leaving the "Nest"

Which is worse? Death of a parent?  Or Divorce?  The experts have said that the latter is, but the psych community is working hard to say that’s not true.  So, some courts mandate parenting classes and we’re all hoping that kids these days aren’t going through what we went through.

There’s a book published by the Hospice Foundation of America called Living with Grief: Children and Adolescents (edited by Kenneth J. Doka and Amy S. Tucci).  The parts I’ve read are really excellent, as is probably everything that Hospice does. It’s a thick book.  There are 420 pages in here.  This is obviously a very well researched subject. Growing up in Divorce is not.  You can’t talk about how screwed up the kid is when both parents are still alive I guess.

I went through both of these experiences, Death and Divorce, and I have to say that both were bad, but the problems associated with the Divorce were far worse.  I suppose one of the big differences is the sense that Choice is involved.  There is no choice with Death.  It is decided for you by a higher sense of life.  There is always the feeling that Choice is involved in Divorce.  So, if it turns out that the Divorce causes pain, then it seems to be a form of abuse that the parent inflicts on the child.  In probably most Divorce there is the sense that not only is the pain extreme, but that it never ends.  With each family function the old crap comes up.  With each adult relationship the old crap comes up.  I suspect that it is very helpful experience for raising your own children while going through a divorce because you already know what kills them the most.

Maybe things have changed during the last 5 years or so, but during my first therapy sessions years ago I was told that Divorce is a lot like Death.  It’s loss.  You grieve it and then you move on.  I never understood what they were talking about.  I hadn’t lost either of my parents.  I was attached to them like a ball and chain and was reminded of that a lot.

Then during my last therapy sessions about 6 years ago I was told that growing up in Divorce has nothing to do with anything an adult experiences later on in life.  The Psychiatrist warned me that she herself was divorced and a single Mother and that we probably wouldn’t do the talkie talk.  She sent me to someone who worked with angry teenage kids.  I was in my early 40s.  This person treated me with a barrage  of  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in which everything I said was argued with in order to show me how illogical all of my thinking was.  I believe this technique is called “Reframing” but may be misinformed about that.  Kids from split families spend most of their home life doing reframing.  At any rate,  the therapist went on a 3 week vacation and I noticed how my anxiety levels had abated.  So I quit therapy for good.  I’m not any better but at least I don’t have to reframe my life into a lie each week.

So, I picked up this hospice book on grieving in order to see how the nice people care for the young. The only decent therapy I ever had was the grief group I went to after my parents died (run by a religious person, not a therapist) and browsed through it and noticed that I don’t think that grieving a parent through death is much at all like grieving the loss which comes from divorce.

Maybe this is obvious to everyone out there.  I’m just going to chat my way through some of what I read.  I am hoping for more definitions and maybe some clarifications.  (Mostly this post has become way too long.)

On page 146 of Living With Grief, there’s a section called “How can I help a child build skills to cope with the death?”  Coping seems to be the only thing that any parent going through a divorce has asked me about.  How can I help get the kids through this so they won’t be totally screwed up?  Then they describe how screwed up the ex- is, that they are BiPolar but on meds so couldn’t possibly still have a problem, and I can’t say another word.

That only happens occasionally, most parents purse their lips and change the subject.  Usually this reminds them to start talking about themselves.  They aren’t’ going to revisit that awful time of their lives.  Life is too short.

Anyhow, coping skills are always a great place to start with learning how to deal with any change in life.  You can’t argue with that.  So, how to cope with Death while in childhood?  Can we use techniques and insights thusly gained to learn how cope with Divorce during childhood?

The book says that Death is about permanent Loss.  A grieving child will never see that parent again.  How to help the child cope?

Divorce, as I said before is not permanent loss of a person.  Divorce is weird in this way because you never know if the child will ever see one of the parents again.  Parents come.  And Parents Go.  It’s not part of the plan, but after 20 or 30 years that’s what one will observe through hindsight.

Parents going through divorce are sometimes escaping wildly damaging marriages.  most often they are escaping boredom.  How do we lump these two sets of family types into one category of reaction?  We don’t.   What we seem to do is to ignore how different the situations are.

Divorce can be said to be permanent loss, but permanent loss of what? One or both parents may emotionally cave and decide that parenting isn’t for them.  A relative may take over.  Or both parents may fight over custody for the child during the rest of the child’s childhood.  Or, most often, one parent will recede and even disappear from the child’s life.  Both parents may stick around and work with each other and share the child back and forth weekly.  I say, if you think that your shared dog can not stand this much change in habit then how can your child handle it but what do I know?

Each situation will differ.  There’s so much to lose here, and yet, nothing really is lost.  The parent who disappears may reappear later on in the child’s life. This is a completely different emotional trauma from the initial divorce but brings all the feelings of betrayal, abandonment, rejection and mistrust straight to the fore.

The child of divorce has to completely separate his life between being a child of a marriage and being a child of two different people.  There is a huge difference there.  That’s a mighty big mental task for such a little person. Actually, it’s probably more difficult for a teenager or an adult because they will have experienced the parents as a single unit, such as it was.  The teenager will probably internalize the fears with a level of anger that will be confused with teenage angst and might never be able to break free from them.  A teenager whose parent has just died will at least have neighbors visiting for a couple of days who are wishing him well.  I can’t go beyond understanding anything else in that situation.

Then, there is the parental dating.  And then there are the parental remarriages.  The parent may have a whole new family in which he/she hasn’t made the same mistakes.  That’s great, but where does it leave the rejected child from the previous marriage?  I think I mentioned before about listening to the famous writer speak about being the child from the second marriage.  In public, in front of an adoring audience, she taunted and belittled her half siblings for not being able to drop their old wounds after all these years.  That’s sensible in a way, especially if you aren’t the one who endured your entire childhood in the rejected, poverty stricken 1st family.

These ideas might never occur to a person from an intact family, but they are probably in the back of the mind of the child who has to deal with such situations.  Maybe not.  We’ll never know.  Children of Divorce are a silent, practical crowd.

There certainly is loss of stability in home life.  Divorce tosses the child around from house to house.  From date night to date night.  Scheduling nightmare.  Lost keys.  Little suitcases printed with dinosaurs.  Sleeping in guest rooms.  The child will develop a defense with the outside world in making things look okay.  May act out in order to expose their feelings to the outside world which refuses to look. The child is either stoic and wants to appear as if there is a stable home, or that he doesn’t care that there isn’t, or that it’s fun to visit Mom in rehab.  When you visit Mom in rehab you know something that the other kids at school don’t know.  Children are mostly happy.  Childhood is mostly about play.  There is a natural coping within most humans, especially in children.  Usually the child who is better at avoidance and denial will succeed through this part of his life.  He will learn to be loveable.  The child will still have a home, but maybe he will have a lesser home.  He can’t complain because you can’t complain if your life depends on it.  Hell, some children will have two homes and will be called spoiled for that amazing experience.

There is loss of finances and loss of social standing.   Single Mothers are shunned by married women who don’t want to worry about having their husbands stolen.  This is true if through death or through divorce so there is a similarity here between the two versions of Loss.  They may be considered needy by the neighbors and friends.  They usually don’t make as much money as men and work at jobs that are unrewarding.  So they struggle with self esteem in the way that most Mothers from Intact families do.  Single Fathers, when sober, are generally embraced by neighbors, etc.  their wages are higher, often they have higher self esteem because they have rewarding social life.  Today they have custody of their kids more often.  Sometimes they do this because it’s cheaper than paying Child Support.   I think that’s a great thing especially when there’s no step-mother anxiety.

With all this exposure to parents who celebrate how much Choice they have, Children of Divorce have much more freedom that Children from Intact families do.  They can do a lot of stuff at home and no one will question it.  They have a lot more privacy as well because no one is paying quite as much attention.

There might be loss of a sibling if that sibling goes to live with the other parent.  Often the siblings become closer as a way of maintaining some semblance of real family.  Often this can fall apart later on in life when dealing with death of the parents.

Children of Divorce tend to have much more intimate relationships with their parents.  They have to be confidantes.  They have to help with housework and shopping.  Then there may be loss of privacy and intimacy if the parent remarries without letting the child adapt to the new strangers he/she will be living with.   The child knows he/she doesn’t come first, or even second.

There is loss of childhood as a child is witness to all sorts of adult issues.  I remember reading somewhere about a study (I mentioned it somewhere on this blog) about how people tend to take their first marriage seriously, and after that they are much more concerned with finding people who they share similar tastes in pleasure activities with.  So maybe this means that they will play with the children more.  Or maybe it is just intrusion into the child’s secret, magical world of play.

There may be loss of friends.  The child may become a burden on the neighbors or friends’ families who try to take him in.  The child may become withdrawn and isolated.  Or the child may just stay out with his friends late at night, or by himself.

There might not be as much food in the refrigerator.  And there might not be someone at home to cook it.  That’s a loss. This would occur with death as well.  There is definitely a need for study of nutrition in this regard. Food can become a big part of Loss in a family.  There is no grief ritual about bringing food to a divorced parent.

I suppose that Divorce is more like a backward version of Death.  In most cases, you appear diseased to the outside world after the event, rather than before it.

I remember reading a story in Stephanie Stall’s book The Love They Lost about a boy who felt that he didn’t suffer as much from the divorce because his Mother was determined to keep the family (sans dad) together by maintaining meal time every night.  It so happened he would have been going through his first progressed Lunar Opposition.  Moon  represents Mother and Food and Eating so I suppose that this was a great way to help a child of that level of age development in particular.   He was getting what he needed at the time so he held no deep resentments.  It would be good for him to try to protect himself from some sort of unconscious backlash during his progressed Lunar Returns either way.

The book says that a hard part of the  Grief process is dealing with Loss of Control over events in life. Obviously children who naturally need to be in control will struggle more than those who go with the flow.  So, I suppose that it’s important to look for particular personality needs of each individual child.  Little control freaks may grow up to be super control freaks.  Or they just may not be able to handle taking risks later on at all.

Death, unless caused by murder, is nobody’s fault, of course.  In Divorce, blame shoots out all over the place.  Divorce is the parents’ fault and they must learn to live with this.  If they don’t, of course, they will blame each other and the kids.  Children going through 1st Saturn Return Cycle transits will probably internalize this stuff more.  Perhaps also children going through Venus Return transits as well.

With divorce there is also loss of control over the actual event but probably it is felt just as much over people and relationships.  If you learn nothing else from divorce you learn that you have no idea what is really going on in someone else’s mind.  From the kids’ point of view,  there might be a strong desire to get the parents back together by acting out.  This is natural.

The child can try to separate a parent from a step-parent by acting out and manipulating.  This will happen to the child who has lost a parent.  Children of Divorce often have twice as many parental units going at the same time which makes for a more complicated situation.  And, of course, step-parents will often do their share of acting out.  For some reason, the divorced parent never seems to be the reactive one in these relationships which is something that I can’t figure an explanation for.  And that’s definitely another story.  And, of course, all the blame is put on the child eventually, especially in the teenage years.  The parents, those of the Second and Third Marriages who are seeking pleasure in relationships rather than sacrifice (serious stuff and no fun at all), are stuck in their own teenage years will project this on to the child.

I don’t understand how remarried parents stand back from this and watch their child writhing in emotional pain without ever seeking an explanation.  Just let the kid ride it out.  Often, I suspect, all it would take would be a couple of honest comments such as, “I’m sorry.” and “I’m trying to include you in my quest for the perfect life and I guess I misjudged how you would feel about that.”  and “I hope to work with your other bio parent in order to lessen the stress which has been caused for you.”   But, parental guilt and authoritarian impatience is an amazing thing, especially when it is so bound up with one’s love life and own selfish needs.

The Hospice book on grief  talks about Intervention.  It says that no children will suffer from therapy or intervention in trying to deal with loss from death.I believe that the Hospice grief counseling I received was either free or inexpensive.  Therapy for divorce is freakishly expensive and, in my experience, hurts.  And, if you can’t express yourself then you must not be feeling anything.  You will simply have more deja vu experiences in relationships when you are older than your peers.  “I feel like I’ve been through this before….”

In grief counseling, according to the book, it is probably best to try to focus on “At Risk children”.  There is discussion about how some children will react immediately and some won’t react for years. So determining who is At Risk is difficult.

I’m not sure if therapists try to determine which children might be more At Risk than others in Divorces.  By the time a kid seeks help it’s probably too late anyway.  The Astrology seems to show clearly how a child might be at risk.  If you divorce during your child’s first prog. Moon and Saturn squares and oppositions you are putting that child at high risk.  Moon and Saturn directly affect the parenting and home life expression from the child’s point of view.  You can make up by making sure that the child receives some semblance of what these planets rule, such as the case about the boy whose Mother insisted on maintaining mealtime.  Moon and Saturn can lapse into depression and emotional problems and deep insecurities about how to deal with failure and success.  If you divorce during the Jupiter transit cycles the child may act out and then seem okay.  Jupiter is the planet of optimism and expansion.  He’s sort of the connector energy between the playfulness of childhood and the optimistic adult who looks forward to what’s next.  On the flip side, Jupiter internalizes anxiety like nobody’s business.  It will put up a convincing facade.  It will express by overdoing or having unrealistic expectations.

In the end, maybe Linguistics is the best way to determine how a child will react to a divorce.  How can a 3 year old who is exposed to Daddy’s jealous girlfriend, truly focus on this issue until she is much older and has been through a few divorces herself? How does she find the words to express how she felt when Step-Mom did her first catty put down?  How does a teenager who is exposed to a Father’s rejection because he’s got a new family, how does that teenager absorb that into the self esteem issues that teenagers are going through both physically and socially?  Perhaps there is a way to understand how a 3 year old with a 3 year old’s understanding of relationships and limited vocabulary be able to process what its parents are doing.  Maybe there is a way to calculate vocabulary and grammar skills of the 3 year old and balance with vocabulary and grammar skills, along with life experience of the 32 year old parent along with the levels of the 25 year old jealous girlfriend and come up with a sum of what exactly is going on in the child’s head and to understand typical emotional fallout for such trauma.  Ridiculous?  I agree.

At any rate, grief therapists say to let the child know that the death is not his fault. This is a strong component in divorce therapy as well.  I’ve personally found that it may only apply to a very limited amount of children.  The 2 year old who seem to really need to hear it (they are just finishing up returns of planets Mars and Venus who are responsible for relationships matters).  Older children will probably side with one parent and blame the other parent.  He or she will know who is shirking responsibility.  Won’t understand the whole story behind everything, but will know where someone is messing up.  Teenagers are critical of their parents.  It’s part of the individuation process.  Where does all this extra blame stuff have a place to go then?

Blame and Guilt is such a big and obvious problem in Divorce families and Step-Families that I’m not even going to go there with that idea.  Parents will in the end blame the kids if the kids cause problems.

The grief book says that helping a child to maintain self esteem after a death is important.  At this point interactions with family members can be negative because everyone is going through the loss.  Parenting can be harsh for a while.  Counselors are advised to deal with this issue through the technique of “re-framing.”  You say things like “Things may be bad now, but they will get better.”  Haha.  Again, I don’t think that this will work for divorce.  Kids going through Divorce are doing pretty much nothing but “Reframing.”  Look at things from Mommy’s point of view.  Look at things from Daddy’s point of view.  Grandma?  GrandPa?  Older brother?  Little sister?  Reframe.  Reframe.  Reframe. Everyone is seeing things from a completely different perspective.  Most are looking at their lives from angles that they themselves have never looked at them before.  We just have to get through this adjustment period where we’re all in shock.  Are we all happy now?

Tell that to a kid who has to cope with a depressed mother who is committing suicide everything 3 months.  Parental suicide is a huge second rejection for the child who realizes that he’s not worth sticking around for.

Divorce for most children of divorce is all about turning 18 and getting out of the house.  Many of the children of divorce just want to have simple lives.  Love for many of them is an extremely complex neurological overload.  They know that Love isn’t permanent.  Their parents don’t love each other.  Their parents could stop loving them at any moment.  They might do things to test the parents in that case.  Probably they don’t.  They may need more reassurance.  They may become obnoxious if given too much reassurance because most humans do.  Often they have to think of their parents’ love on very flexible terms.  Their status within family will have to change over and over again with each new relationship the parents get in to.   This last one is similar to children who have lost a parent from death.  But, those children will still have only one family unit.

In divorce,  often the parents use their kids.  Actually this seems to be addressed by most experts.  But, who in divorce can afford to seek the advice of experts?  A single parent, though, is going to end up using the child as a substitute friend, shrink, housecleaner, cook, parent, etc.  Kids will play along.  Actually, if they sense that this is play maybe it really won’t hurt them as much.  Breaking away from these relationships is extremely difficult for young adults.  Because of the divorce it is often handled the same way as the divorce was.  The removal will be more like a cold hearted rejection that involves guilt and worry rather than opportunity to move out and into one’s own life.

Kids might be aware that their friends’ lives are a bit easier or simpler.   Everything is chaotic and or becomes a scheduling nightmare.  Divorce home life is simply not as easy as their friends’.  Probably the odd behavior is a good thing.  A life lesson on how to cope.

Children of Divorce might benefit, however, by having a very close and intimate relationship with a parent.  This may or may not be healthy, but is generally considered unhealthy by outsiders.

The grief book discusses briefly how children in various stages of Child Development react to death.  Most of the research is from the 1990s.  According to researchers Speece and Brent, whoever they are, there are 4 components to understanding grief:

Universality:  The idea that death is inevitable and happens to everyone.

Nonfunctionality:  The idea that all life functions cease at death.

Irreversibility:  The idea that when things die they do not come back to life.

Causality:  Ability to understand objective and biological causes.

Looking at this one can easily see how different Divorce is from Death.

The authors say that young children understand Universality and Causality.  Interesting that Nonfunctionality isnt’ part of the deal, but perhaps children have a naturally religious point of view.  Maybe I wrote down the notes wrong.

But in terms of applying this Grief therapy to a Divorce situation it really shows some interesting stuff.  Most of these show that children are concerned with the physical understanding of Death.  How the body works and why the person isn’t there anymore.  Universality and Causality have nothing to do with dealing with Loss through Divorce because nobody dies.  Nonfunctionality can be argued by anyone who believes in reincarnation which supposedly children are very good at understanding.  (Ian Stevenson’s research).

The big one that I suppose Children of Divorce have to deal with is Irreversality.  Some kids have known all along that their parents should get divorced so they don’t spend the next 5 years hoping their parents will get back together.  But many live with the hope that the parents will get back together again.  Usually the parent who gets dumped is living with this wish as well.  I knew someone whose parents divorced and remarried three times so sometimes this is based in reality.  I remember asking my Father to come back and being shocked that he just simply said No.  He left overnight and that was that.  (He had been having an affair for a while though so he had known what was coming on, if anyone ever knows that type of thing for sure).  His parents had divorced when he was a teenager but had gotten back together again.  He said that life was a lot better during the time when they were separated.

So death of relationships is nothing like death of the physical body.   At any rate, one can see how different it is to not look at loss through Divorce in terms of grief therapy having to do with death.

According to this research, younger children are more likely to feel watched by deceased parents.  They are also more expressive than older children with their feelings of grief.

Older children are more likely to talk to their friends about death.  I wonder how this works out with Children of Divorce.  I personally remember not being able to talk about the Divorce.  I remember some kids telling me how it was without asking.  Each child is going to experience this on a personal level.

The book also discusses gender differences in how children react to loss from death.  This seems very different from how they react in divorce just from my own personal observation.  Girls who grieve death are said to have social and relationship anxiety and boys are said to Act out.  In divorce I wonder if these roles aren’t divorced more often.  I think that the girls might act out more.  One would hope that this is a boon for the feminist movement, but I sort of think it happens most often because of competition and control issues with female parents, both biological mother and step-mothers.  Boys in divorce are definitely more inward and sensitive thinking.  I’ve always thought that was a good thing because I like thoughtful men.  But, that’s probably why their suicide rates are so high.  They compare themselves with other boys who are encouraged to be aggressive and self centered.  They may feel that they have to fill in for their Father’s absence and take care of the women in the family.   I suspect it makes them more desirable with authority figures, but may hurt in their ability for leadership roles as they don’t project strong authority stances.

Wow, this turned out a lot longer than it should be.



Parents as Sex Traders

When your parents divorce, often your relationship with both of them changes.  Whereas, previously, you may have been closest to your Father, you may become closer to your Mother after the divorce.  Then there are the stories of the child who becomes so difficult and unmanageable under care of one parent, he/she has to change households and has to go live with the other parent.  And then there’s the story which I just saw last night on TV…

Saw a very frightening show last night on Sex Trafficking.  The United States has grown one of the biggest, if not the biggest, Sex Trafficking capital of the World.  Sorry I can’t remember the name of the show, was wanting to link to it.  I think it was on MSNBC.  Am certain I will repeat some inaccurate details here in trying to describe the situation.

A young girl in the Bay Area was repeatedly raped by her Father from the age of 3 onwards.  At the Age of 8 years old her Father began to pimp her in order to make enough money for the family to buy a house.  The parents divorced when she was a teen and at that time the Mother, needing money, began to pimp the girl.

So, there you go, horror stories beyond anything most of us can imagine.  Her parents are immigrants who follow beliefs that daughters can be treated this way.  I grew up with what I think are pretty conservative values for women’s place in the world.  I’ve discussed my own situation, no sexual abuse, so I’m not saying that this happens only in Asian families.  This is a problem for female children overall in dysfunctional families.

The whole time growing up, this girl maintained a straight A average in school and played on her Soccer team.  She was very close to a teacher, I believe her old Soccer coach.  This young woman then managed to get in to UC Berkeley where she began therapy in order to try to make sense out of her life.  I believe she said that she is now around 25 years old and has stopped talking with her parents since she was around 20 years old.  Her strength is incredible.  She is speaking out in order to help others who might be in this same situation.

The parents were interviewed on the show and didn’t admit to anything.



Fresh Air Interview: The Memory Palace

Writer and Artist Mira Bartok is interviewed by Terry Gross on the NPR program Fresh Air about a memoir she has written called The Memory Palace.

I’m assuming that Mira Bartok is a Child of Divorce but the Big D is never mentioned in the interview.  Mira’s relationship with her Father is briefly mentioned to say that he left the family when she was 4 years old and Mira moved with her Sister and her Mother into their Grandparents’ house.  Her Mother, an accompalished pianist, suffered from schizophrenia and her Grandfather seems to also have some sort of mental illness.  Both Mother and Grandfather were violent.  Mira and her Sister have both achieved success in life working in the humanities.

The blurb which drew me to the interview said that Mira began to understand her Mother’s illness better after suffering traumatic brain injury when a Truck hit her when she was 40.  She suffers from memory problems, both short and long term.

The interview with Terry Gross mostly discusses what it must be like to have a mentally ill family member who ends up homeless because their behavior is impossible to treat.  I wish there had been discussion about how it might be different to be the child of a mentally ill parent as I feel that sets up a different relationship dynamic than for a parent to deal with a mentally ill child.  It’s much easier to get a child into treatment than it is for a child because the parent is used to giving the commands rather than receiving them.

At one point Bartok says something like (not an exact quote most likely):

“We (she and her sister) needed to be safe and we needed for someone to keep her safe.”

I think that this is what parenting is all about and I think it is a huge problem for Children of Divorce, whether we want to say it or not.  The parents think that if they assure the child that he’s loved that this is enough.  But, then, the child marries a new partner and does nothing to protect the child from entering into the new relationship at his own emotional speed.  Since Bartok is probably around the same age that I am I know that girls of our generation were rarely considered “safe” when left alone.  Probably this is less so now but I don’t have a clue.

Bartok’s Grandfather died at some point, not sure what age she was at that point.  She placed her Grandmother into an eldercare program in 1989 and her Mother’s situation deteriorated very quickly after that.  By 1990 she was homeless.  There is great discussion here about how and why Bartok couldn’t take care of her Mother and didn’t talk to her for 17 years.  Her Mother lived to be more than 80 years old and the homeless shelter where she had lived for a few years before her death is named after her.

Am really interested to read this book.  Guess I’m jumping the gun by writing about it right now.  Wonder what it must be like to have memory problems and to be trying patch up such a difficult upbringing at the same time.