Men and Divorce: The Children – Part 6 This is the sixth in a series of articles regarding men

and divorce. The first was an introduction to the challenges of divorce for men and women. I also presented Sam Margulies’ book, “A Man’s Guide to a Civilized Divorce”. The second article was entitled “Healthy Divorce” and encouraged men to consider the emotional, financial, legal, physical and even spiritual toll of divorce in order to come through it with minimal wounds to men ourselves as well as to the women and children in our lives. The third article addressed some legal aspects of divorce and howemotional clarity can be helpful in how the legal considerations are pursued and chosen. The fourth and fifth continued to address the difficulties of divorce for men and women. The first intention of this sixth article is to address

the pain I have seen and heard fromseparated or divorced men regarding the challenges with their children. In the next article, I intend to share what I have learned about and from children with separated or divorcing parents. Besides the myriad aspects of the demise of the

husband/wife relationship, the vastmajority of themen I have encountered in my practice who are experiencing a separation or divorce, are profoundly affected by what it all may mean to their children. Man after man has been in the deepest pain at the thought of changes or loss in their relationshipwith their children, nomatter their ages. “I can’t imagine not being there when they wake up. I can’t imagine not being there when they go to bed” are metaphors for what they are feeling. I have seen men break down into tears and pain of what they are feeling. Often I wonder if their wives have ever seen the depth of their emotions. Often men have not shown it but when it comes to the children, all bets are off. The pain of change and loss are obvious. Other

emotions such as grief, anger, fear and shame surface too for men. Self-doubt and powerlessness also rear their heads compounding the varied and conflicting emotions. “Whatwill the children think ofme?What do I tell them? How do I relate to them now? Are they angry at me? Should I just stay in the marriage?Will she turn the kids against me? What shouldn’t I say? How do I teach and discipline them? How much do I tell them?” Each of these questions is compelling and there are no easy answers and they affect men deeply. Children of all ages need to hear about the changes

that will take place. It’s difficult and painful yet necessary to say, for example, “Our family isn’t going to

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be the same anymore. This is hard for all of us.We know this is difficult and scary for you. You won’t be alone as we go through this.Wewon’t keep secrets fromyou.You can talk to your friends and other adults about what’s going on.My (our) feelings don’t have to be the same as yours.” These statements are absolutely essential in communicating with children depending on their ages. For all fathers but especially for separated or divorced

fathers, consciousness and awareness is paramount. We each know what our fathers did that enhanced us or damaged us and we constantly question what we are doing with our children. Again, the questions come up about sons and daughters. “What attitude does she/will she have towards men? Will she choose some one like me or the opposite of me? How do I father my daughter without my wife? What’s my son learning from what I did and how I’macting?What does he think aboutme as a man?” If the man comes from a family where the parents

divorced, many of his own “child of divorce” issues will surface. Even if there was not a divorce, per se, if there was conflict or abandonment of any sort for the man in his experienceswith his parents, a gamut of emotionswill come into play. These can include all variations of shame, fear, anger, loss, confusion. It is my mission with separated or divorcing men to

help them stay conscious of how they affect their children. Most men are very accountable for their fatherhood and welcome someone such as a therapist keeping themawake at the wheel.Almost allmen I have encountered are willing to receive mentoring on their fatherhood especially since most of us had many not so wonderful experiences. Even though it is unfortunate that some men act badly during their divorce process, when they can see how deleterious this is to their children’s emotional well being, they start to shift. Most men, especially because they are in such pain themselves, welcome someone to respectfully and caringly keep them accountable for their fatherhood and not adding to their children’s pain during such a difficult process as divorce.

••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• JosephMaurino is a Licensed Clinical SocialWorker

who practices in Paramus, NJ. He specializes in supporting males of all ages to dealwith issues particular tomen. Joseph also does couple to couple counseling with his wife,Marina. He can be reached at 201- 261-9129

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