Change is difficult for most people. It is difficult whether we are the ones making the change or if the change is occurring because of someone else’s decision. This is most often true in the case of divorce. Whether we decide or our partner does, there will be changes to make and adapt to for ourselves, our partner, and our children. For some, the most difficult part of divorce is not knowing what comes next. We have been brought up in a society that wants to know what’s coming. We want to be able to plan and prepare for whatever we will have to deal with.
Life does not always accommodate our desires and needs. Sometimes we must accept that we do not know what will happen. We have to sit with the uncertainty, with the knowledge that we don’t know what we want to know: where we will live, when we will move, what the parenting plan will be, how we will manage financially, how much spousal support we will get or need to pay, will we be able to manage our feelings, and so on.
It’s a time when parents are asked similar questions by their children. They usually want to know what changes they will experience when Mommy and Daddy stop living together. Will they be able to go to the same school? Can they keep their friends? What will happen with their pets? While facing your own uncertainty, you must help your children face theirs. Children often are more able than their parents to find the adventure or excitement in making changes, but sometimes they need their parents to help them with it. As you encounter your feelings about uncertainty and address the emotions associated with it, you may be better able to help your children manage theirs. It is not unlike the airline rule: Put your own oxygen mask on, then help others fasten theirs.
On a practical level, talking with children about their new bedroom, having a second bicycle, or celebrating holidays twice can help them focus on things over which they may have some control. On an emotional level, learning to be at peace with not knowing everything you would like to know and accepting that information will come as it is available, that not all decisions will be your first choice, and that, for the most part, your life and your children’s lives will carry on, are important lessons you can help your children come to terms with.
In truth, we live with not knowing every day. We don’t know if we will get a job we applied for, a call from that lovely person we met the other day, the house we want to buy, if it is going to rain. Life offers little in the way of certainty, try as we might to push and pull it into shape. When faced with uncertainty, many people tend to fill in the holes in their knowledge with stories—those things we create to make sense of the world, regardless of whether they are accurate reflections. We can create stories that we like, or we can create stories that frighten us. In either case, we are filling in for our discomfort with not knowing, with uncertainty. This is often where we allow ourselves to feel fear—fear of the unknown.
Take a deep breath, work on accepting that you can know only what is available to know, and look forward to the adventure of walking down a road you have perhaps never been on before.