Here is the thing about children. They love their parents unconditionally. A child yearns for the love of both their parents.
The children of abusive parents have a very difficult time of it. They also love their parents regardless of any abuse, pain or separation. They want to be loved in return. We need the support and care of our parents. This yearning doesn’t go away as we get older. We can adjust to our parents being absent from our lives, but the yearning to be loved by them does not go away.
This desire seems to strengthen during the teen years. As a teenager, after my step-father’s death, I yearned to know my birth father. I craved a father’s love. I still do, to some extent.
My step-father did not make me feel loved and wanted. My birth father was absent for all of my growing up years, and although we built a relationship in the past few years before his death, we never grew very close. I know he loved me though. Unfortunately, my mother still shares with me details of their marriage that children of the marriage should not know. She still speaks badly of him to me and it hurts. It also puts her in a negative light in my eyes… not because of what happened in the stories she shared, but because she continues to share them.
Sometimes we need to know some of the details of our parents marriage, to protect us from making the same mistakes. We don’t need to hear the intimate breakdown of every indiscretion or abuse. It’s enough to say “he was physically / sexually / mentally / verbally / financially / emotionally / spiritually abusive” without extensive details, and even that only when the child is mature enough to handle the details, to want to know.
Yes, an abusive survivor needs to share the details of their stories, we need to talk about it … but not with own children.
Many of my friends have also had children who have chosen to move in with the other parent during their teen years, despite past abuse. I don’t believe this is a statement against the original custodial parent, but rather a cry for the love and attention of the other parent.
When abuse has happened, this is even harder because the adult victim/survivor of the abuse knows the danger inherent in the child living with the other parent. As hard as it is, if the other parent is in the child’s life, we must encourage the relationship and guard our child’s heart at the same time. We must listen carefully, we must speak with respect about and to the other parent, especially in front of the child(ren) and we must make time for the children to spend with the other parent. Even if their other parent is completely absent from their lives, share the happy moments with them, teach them the good in their other parent. Speak truth in kindness. As they get older, they’ll want more truth, speak of the negative things in love for your child.
This is where never speaking ill of the other parent is beneficial. When we do our best to protect our child from the adult hurts of their parents, we protect their ability to see clearly the type of person their parents are. If we are known to, inappropriately, speak ill of the child’s other parent then we end up diminishing our own honor in the eyes of our child, we erode their ability to show us respect, and we open the door for our child to wonder if we are representing our relationship with their other parent accurately. They want to know the truth, but in an age appropriate manner. Even more than that, they desperately need to know that both of their parents love and want them.
I pray my children never want to move in with their dad. I pray this is not a problem I will have to deal with. It’s not an issue I look forward to handling. I’m sure my children’s father will try to manipulate them into living with him at some point, and I can only do my best to continue to protect them.
I choose to not worry about things I can’t control, especially about something that may never happen. I do intend to make a plan to deal with it, IF it arrives. In the meantime, I can only continue to build a positive relationship with my children and also protect their relationship with their dad as far as possible.