Ellen Sue’s Introduction from Divorce…

Like many parents i know, my decision to divorce was heart wrenching. I was racked with fear, guilt, and anxiety. How would Evan and Zoe, then six and eight years old, survive? How would we handle their birthday parties? Holidays? High school graduations? Would they be forever wounded by coming from a “broken home”? Would they spend 20 years in therapy? All my hopes and dreams of us having the “perfect family” were slowly shattered as I faced what I was about to do.

At age three, in all the innocence of childhood, Evan said something I’ve never forgotten: “I know you and Daddy will never get divorced.” “Why not?” I asked. “Because you love me and Zoey too much.” These words echoed as their father and I sat down to tell our kids the news: “Daddy and I love you very much, but we’ve decided we need to live apart.” I watched in horror as they recoiled in disbelief, then ran from the room, sobbing. They reappeared twenty minutes later, holding hands, wanting to know: “If you and Daddy get divorced, will we have two VCRs-one at each house?” At that moment, I knew they’d be okay.

Better than okay. Today I can say with confidence that my children have turned out to be strong, brave, resilient, and compassionate human beings, in part because of what they have endured. Witnessing Zoe and Evan thrive has made me question the widely held belief that children of divorce are at risk for dangerous and self-destructive behavior and may be less capable of creating healthy, long-term love relationships.
On the contrary, as is evident throughout this book, kids who have been through divorce are often stronger, more flexible, and capable of handling change.

Working with Zoe and Evan on this book reinforced this belief and gave me some surprising insights into how differently their generation sees divorce. When I was growing up, I knew a few kids whose parents were divorced; we spoke of them in hushed tones, seeing them as outcasts. Zoe and Evan altered my perceptions, especially when I asked them if they wished they came from a normal family, or if they worried about whether there’s any such thing as a happy marriage. They replied by looking at me as if I was crazy. These thoughts had never occurred to them, in large part because over half their friends have divorced parents and/or have been in blended families. If anything, I’ve learned, my children, along with others of their generation, are more deeply committed to making wise and healthy choices in matters of the heart.

No parent would ever wish to say to their children: “Daddy (or Mommy) and I are getting a divorce.” Yet we also have the opportunity to help them transform this into a positive experience. It’s not the painful experiences that wound us, but rather how they are-or aren’t-dealt with. We must first and foremost respect our children’s feelings. We can’t make their pain disappear, but we can create a safe space in which they can freely express their emotions. We can offer support, we can love them with all our hearts, but ultimately, they must go through this transition in their own way, in their own time.

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