Dealing with one's parents' divorce can be painful, but one just has to come to terms with it Image: Thinkstock
Dealing with a divorce isn't easy. Not only is it hard for the couple involved but it's especially tough on the children. Experiencing a broken marriage at a tender age can wreck them apart. The damage done is, at times, irreparable. More often than not, children carry the burden well into their adulthood. The result: Insecurities, low-self esteem, depression, anxiety issues, commitment phobia... and the list goes on.
Thirty-two-year-old Gautam Mengle has been on the receiving end of his parents' broken marriage not once, but twice. The Mumbai resident still finds it hard to fill the gaping emotional void his past has left with him.
"My parents got divorced when I was just three years old. For a good five to six years, I wasn't aware of their divorce. As a kid, I often harboured dreams of reuniting my parents but in vain. I was eight or nine when I chanced upon this paper while rummaging through a wardrobe. On asking my mother about the paper, she told me it's her divorce paper. Her words turned my world upside down. It was really difficult for me to come to terms with reality," says Gautam.
"My childhood wasn't an easy one. My mother got married for the second time and unfortunately, that too didn't work. What added salt to injury was my (biological) father's death. I didn't really get an opportunity to know his side of the story. Being on the receiving end of a broken marriage for the second time wasn't easy. I remember crying my eyes out, downing pegs of whiskey like nobody's business. But I think I started getting out of the emotional whirlpool the day I realised my role in this whole thing was to step up and take care of my mom instead of wallowing in self-pity. Now I am 32, and I am still not ready to get married. So, you know where all this is coming from. I have had two relationships in the past, but tying the knot is something which I could never convince myself to do," he adds.
Gautam's story is not a one-off tale. With the rising divorce rates around the world, there's a burning need to discuss and understand the nitty-gritty of how to deal with a divorce from a child's perspective.
Stop blaming yourself for your parent's divorce
Charvi Jain, a Kolkata-based psychotherapist says, "A very natural tendency for children is to blame themselves for the separation. It's important to not take it personally. Children also tend to think of themselves as a failure because they failed to keep their parents together. This feeling is often instilled by the extended families and relatives who expect the child to convince their parents to be together. So, first and foremost this guilt has to be tackled. Children should stop blaming themselves for the divorce. Secondly, since parents are the figures a child looks up to, their broken marriage often affects the self-esteem of the child. He/she may start harbouring negative beliefs about themselves, such as 'I am not good enough' or 'I am not lovable' etc. In such a scenario, the child concerned should be taken to a counsellor. School counsellors and extended families play a big role here."
Parents are but just humans
Piya Banerjee, a rational-emotive and cognitive behavioural therapist says, "Children often tend to put their parents on a pedestal. For children, parents are like demigods who can do no wrong. So, when parents get into an altercation or opt for a divorce, it becomes really difficult for the kids. Their world literally comes crashing down. Everything goes haywire for them. So, children need to understand that even their parents are like any other normal human being. To err is human. Even parents can go wrong. Sometimes, two people are just not compatible. So, instead of mourning the loss, children should develop a neutral perspective and try to understand their parents. Children can stay happy with their parents even after a divorce. It's all about training your mind and adjusting to the changes of life. Most importantly, it's important to get rid of the stigma."
For children, parents are like demigods who can do no wrong. So, when parents get into an altercation or opt for a divorce, it becomes really difficult. Piya Banerjee, therapist
Counselling is helpful
Hyderabad-based psychiatrist Dr Prabhakar Korada believes that counselling can help children in weathering the storm of their parents' separation or divorce. "With the influx of nuclear families, dealing with a divorce has become more difficult for children. Extended families often come to a kid's rescue in the wake of a divorce. Divorces often have a catastrophic impact on kids. Counselling at times becomes a must in case the child fails to cope with his/her parents' divorce. There are various therapies such as distrust-disorder therapy, fear-therapy etc which help people come to terms with reality and get rid of their insecurities," says Dr Korada.