Jennifer, a 31-year-old divorced mother of four daughters, says seeing 7-year-old Kris's emotional reaction to his parents' divorce made her realize what her own daughters were feeling. "I just looked at my girls as they were watching that, too," she says. "I could see that they were relating to him, and I knew that I related to some of the things that father was going through."
In the five years since her divorce, Jennifer says her ex-husband has chosen not to be involved much with the children. "I think the rejection and the hurt after so long has just turned into anger," she says. "I have four angry children, I think, at times. They fight constantly. They fight with me."
Even though she knows her daughters are feeling sad and mad, Jennifer says they won't discuss it. "They just say, 'I don't want to talk about it,' because they don't want any more hard feelings than I already have toward their dad. They don't want to let me know what they're feeling because I've already got enough." Jennifer says it hurts that she cannot make her daughters feel better. "They shouldn't have to have that. They shouldn't have to carry that pain as children."
Jennifer's mistake, Gary says, is allowing the girls to feel how stressed she is. "Something has gotten across to the children that said I'm so tired and overwhelmed and overburdened… and part of that's tied into … because your dad won't take you ," Gary says. "Although it might be real, it's time to kind of move on and be able to say that, 'Look, no matter how difficult it is, I'm here for you. I can handle it. Sometimes I'm tired and we'll talk later, fine. But whether your dad's in your life, not in your life, this is the family that we have and we're going to make this family work until anything changes.' And that's a big piece of trying to move on."