Something I’ve often been thinking about since I was around 7 (yes) are „divorce children“. I don’t know if this is an actual term in English, but Scheidungskind in German is something I have heard a lot and I also read the Danish equivalent of skilsmissebarn. So I’ll just assume that it exists in English or invent the term right now.
Now why do I think about that and am bothered? Because I think it is one of those terms for an issue that is misleading attention. It is also one of the boxes that I hated to be thrown into. One of those boxes, that sound neutral and descriptive but I actually have only heard the term/concept in victimizing contexts.
I think it is totally relevant to pay attention to the children involved in a break up and notice how they’re doing, as they are the partners of this deal who don’t get a say in the changes that are happening in their immediate surrounding. But I also think that it is focusing attention on this particular part, the victim-ness of the children, their apparent powerlessness.
The word represents the emotional hardship of parents not being able to take care of the child well by solving their conflicts and staying a couple. It stands for emotional strains of having to stand between two people who used to live together but don’t anymore; who used to love each other and wanted to spend their lives together, but decided otherwise. It stands for not knowing how to deal with being sad or angry. It is an quick answer when a child is introvert or when it is over-extrovert – when its parents are divorced or getting there.
Like this it also manifests the fact that it is best to stay together as a couple for the rest of life. That this is the FORM that is most worthwhile aspiring in order to have a good life and take care of children and their growth and emotional well being.
It manifests, that dealing with sadness and anger shouldn’t be something children have to do.
It says that children suffer, when their parents get divorced and can’t accept this new reality.
It says that this is a child of parents who failed in their attempt to give the best grounds for its development and thus creates an atmosphere of guilt.
It is reducing the ability of a child to learn about relationships, to be a resilient, strong and emotionally mature person later in life, to the factor of how well together it’s parents are.
It creates an expectation of entitlement – children should have both their parents, they’re entitled to grow up in a safe environment.
I used it as an explanation for not being able to deal with conflict and people shouting at each other. When I got panicky, because people where shouting and I thought I should be able to deal with conflict, but this is what I learned and why it is so dangerous. Because my base was destroyed by this kind of conflict and I was left insecure and scared.
But if I keep creating this reality, by articulating my weakness in relationship to something that happened when I was 7 and younger – I will never be able to stop it. I depend on my past and will always become panicky when someone is yelling. It will be a great excuse not to take responsibility for my own well being, because I’m a victim of my past.
For some reason it is easier to be that victim, than to say I find yelling and talking condescendingly with someone I love unbearable and don’t want to have this kind of communication in my relationships.
I find the term „Scheidungskind“ kind of stigmatizing and dripping of pity, self-pity and disempowered human beings, subject to the system, to their fighting and incapable parents. It is at the same time throwing stones of guilt at the parents, for being the responsible ones, the aggressors who create the victim. This guilt requires compensation or remuneration – either to the child, to society or just justification. All in all I find the term disempowering and creating a situation of defense, offense, justification, entitlement and morality in which all individuals lose their confidence in one way or another and either compensate or feel guilty and need to justify their actions all the time.
Why is it so hard and frightening to have divorcing parents? Because a divorce, including all the hurt, the freedom, the shame and guilt and awkwardness – it is really letting parents be human beings. Who fail and don’t know everything all the time. That’s really not a nice thing to realize, because they’re parents and should know.
But at the same time, isn’t this a really, really healthy thing to notice, too? And isn’t this something all humans notice eventually? Sooner or later, I mean…?
I might be a Scheidungskind and had to witness my parents hurt each other, be hurt by the situation, feel guilty, angry, vulnerable, lost, insecure. I had to meet new lovers (who always were new lovers, nowhere near replacing my actual parents not even close to being in the same category) and deal with awkward moments of all of them being in the same place. I had to deal with my sisters’ pain. I had to deal with my two families’ confusion of how to deal with the situation. None of those were nice things to deal with. I also created physical symptoms like migraines around this time in my life and had them for a while.
But – would my life have been much easier, if they didn’t get divorced?
All of you, who have „together parents“ – is your life always easy and comfy? Never had any symptoms?
I’m hearing there are different challenges and maybe even the same ones in a different setting.
I at least never walked in on my parents having sex and I hear that is an uncomfortable sensation…
I’m not trying to say that problematic relationships won’t have an effect on the children involved. None of what I’m writing about has to do with physical or emotional violence, actually harming the involved parts (parents, children) or neglecting a child that is dependent. There is no way of saying that „these people are just humans anyways and the children have to learn that“. That’s a different league which I don’t want to comment on right now.
But that is why I think the term Scheidungskind is complicated and misleading. It easily calls for associations including violence of some sort. And it is implying that it’s the divorce that is the problematic part, that all divorces have some of the same dynamics and they are very likely to harm the child.
I think it’s learning to deal with pain that is relevant. Learning to communicate. Learning to take care of ones own needs without becoming a total ass for others. Learning to deal with conflicts in a way that you can still feel well. Learning to notice that you can get through a period of time where you’re not well and recover, heal.
Divorce is just one face of this. There are so many other forms of relationships where this will or will not be learned.
And also, I think there are some lessons from being a Scheidungskind, that I now don’t want to miss out on…
I would say I made experiences with
* having two homes where someone loves me so much
* living in two different cultures and having two very different ways of communicating
* totally different ways of structuring every day life and thinking about future of two people I respect
* everyone I love not necessarily loving each other in the same way, but it’s still ok
* taking a decision, that is uncomfortable but creates space and more well being
* noticing that not every decision I will take will be forever, even though I thought so
For actually using those experiences to learn, I needed to stop being a victim and notice them as valuable. Maybe, if we were just as verbal about these aspects of being a Scheidungskind, we would create an environment, where hard situations can actually be seen as part of life and faster using the qualities learned intentionally?
I remember being glad, that my parents got divorced when I was 7 and instead of the fights at home, we had two homes. I was sad not to be able to be with both of them all the time. I’m sure for them it wasn’t easy, but I know they did their best to create an environment for us children, to grow and be well. There are things I totally disagree with, how they dealt with stuff. And it didn’t always feel great in the moment. But there are many things where I’m impressed by how they just are them.
And also this is my life. It might sound cheesy, but really: who is to know who I’d be today, if they hadn’t divorced?
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