The tough thing about being a parent is that while your kids are allowed to act like kids, you still have to act like a grown up, even when you feel about as far from adult as you can get.
On a good day, parenting is just great. Funny, startling, and affectionate, your kids give you a fresh take on things as they discover their world. Seeing the world through their eyes is a delight.
It's an entirely different kind of challenge to figure out your kid's perspective when your family life turns to custard. That's when you're likely to discover the impact that being young might have on your kid's ability to cope with the situation.
Whether they're six months, or sixteen, kids' job is learning about themselves. How they walk, how they talk, who they are and how they fit into their family. So it makes sense that when parents separate kids reactions are based on how they are effected.
Most kids have an idea about their relationship with each parent; how you get on, what they can count on you for, what gets you mad. They may have some understanding about how the relationship between their parent's effects them, but it's hard for them to understand much about how it effects you.
If understanding the situation is tricky for kids, talking with you about it may be even harder. It's likely that your feelings about the situation are pretty complicated, so you can imagine how bewildering your kids might find sorting out all the differing things they feel.
Talking about it might be very useful for your kids but you need to be ready for the possibility that conversations might not be very reasonable or fair. This is when being the adult really kicks in. You need to be prepared to do more than half the work in the relationship with your kids.
You may need to keep on offering to listen even if what they have to say is hurtful. Your temptation may be to justify yourself, to react to hurtful comments with anger or withdrawal, to assign blame to the other parent, to lay down the law, to make no space for their distress, to confide in them about your own unhappiness.
Your impulses are as natural and human as your children's are. They are about being under enormous pressure and wanting a break. Its not a crime to want a rest from some responsibilities when you you're going through the kind of crisis that leaves you feeling more like a vulnerable child than a resourceful adult.
It's perfectly reasonable to want help. It's just important that you seek support for yourself from people in a good position to provide it. Your kids are not a good option. Your kids need more support from each of their parents, not less.
The more idea you can get of what's going on for your kids, the more chance you have of going to the heart of their concerns. It's easy to get side tracked by the way they act or what they say. If you can look at your family through your children's eyes it will help you to help them. And in the long run, that will help you get through the tough times too.
If you would like help to see your relationship changes through your children's eyes, contact Relationships Aotearoa on 0800 735 283 or telephone your local office which is listed in the telephone directory.