Saying goodbye is part of everyday life. We say goodbye to our loved ones when we head off to work and school. We say goodbye after spending holiday time with family and friends.
Goodbye is something we all experience.
I heard a psychologist recently talking about the effect of goodbye on children. When we say goodbye to children, for them it feels like the goodbye is forever. Young children are not equipped mentally and emotionally to understand that the individual they love, intends to return.
This explains a lot about why children will cry, have tantrums and appear clingy when a loved ones says goodbye. Because for them, it feels like the end of the world.
But what we don’t talk about enough is the effect and impact that a goodbye has on a child of post-separation abuse.
Where there are children and young people involved in post separation abuse, the perpetrator will use this as an opportunity to attempt to retain control and power by various means such as manipulation and emotional abuse.
There may be a Family Court Order in place, which sets out where the child/children will spend Christmas.
What’s important to remember here (and I have said this in numerous podcast episodes and blogs) is that a child of post-separation abuse loves both parents. This can be hard to comprehend. But all the child sees is the love they have for their parents.
With the right support and over time, the child will hopefully and eventually see that the behaviour displayed by the perpetrator is unacceptable behavior. It will stand out clear as crystal from the behaviour displayed by the victim/survivor parent.
This is not something you can force a child to see. They are a child and you have to give them time, love and support.
As Christmas approaches, for those experiencing post-separation abuse, this an incredibly difficult time of year.
The children may be spending Christmas with the perpetrator and the perpetrator may not allow the children to keep in contact with the victim/survivor by phone and text message while they are away.
They may delay times and arrangements all in order to cause more distress, worry and frustration for the victim/survivor parent. In other words, to retain power and control.
The perpetrator may be able to afford more expensive presents than the victim/survivor parent. They and their family members may use the time when the child is with them to emotionally abuse and manipulate them.
I cannot stress enough what a horrendous time of year this can be for a child of post-separation abuse and for the victim parent. But there is support out there and so many organisations who want to help. Have a look at my Resources Page for useful links and support.
The most important thing for the victim parent to remember is – this will not last forever.
It may feel as though it will. But the child will grow and they will learn as they grow. So being loving and supportive towards the child during those years is essential and, it’s the most precious gift a parent can give. When the child is with the victim/survivor parent during the holidays, try and make it as magical and enjoyable as possible.
This doesn’t mean spending a fortune. Children want time and attention. Play games, bake cookies, watch Christmas films. These are the things that the memories are made of that will last.
Post-separation abuse will take time and an inordinate amount of patience. So ensure you seek the right support for you too.
Remember through all of this, children just want to be loved and receive attention.
Nobody wants to look back on their life and realise that so much time was taken away from them by doubt and fear, allowing the perpetrator to steal the small joys around Christmas time. When it is time to say goodbye and the children leave for the holidays, you will know that you have done the best you can and given them memories to cherish.
Then take time for you, to rest, meet up with friends – whatever makes you happy. Don’t feel guilty about focusing on you for a moment. You’ll need the time to be ready for when the child/children return.
An individual can have the most incredible memories with their children, if they decide to make it an incredible journey and get on board with making the best of the situation as possible. Nobody can take that away!
And goodbye is not forever.
So start that journey this Christmas, make the best memories you can. And enjoy as best you can!