We all know that sickening feeling. Whether at the airport or a local exchange location, we’ve had to deliver our children to a known abuser because the court system required us to. If you’re like me, you’ve sobbed openly in a major airport more than once, catching knowing glances from others who understand what you’re feeling in that moment. Or you’ve had to put your kid in the car while you tried not to throw up or burst into tears in front of your babies.
I know I always felt like I was throwing my kids into a river full of piranhas where I knew for certain they would come back damaged, and they did. Each and every time. I picked up the pieces of their broken little hearts and held them as they cried at night for weeks afterward. Since my kids only saw their biological father every few months, it was especially hard once he finally began his all-out manipulation parade.
There cannot possibly be a worse feeling in the world. Especially when it’s compounded by the fact that the children are usually oblivious to the danger because they are so used to being showered with gifts and attention as part of the ongoing manipulation. I always had a deal with myself that I would let my kids see the best of me when I was at my worst, because stressing them out over the terror I felt would have served no purpose. Over time, though, I did develop some strategies for dealing with this, especially during the holidays.
They were hard lessons to learn, but incredibly valuable!
Trash All Your Old Traditions and Make New Ones
Not only does this establish new and wonderful bonds with your kids, it lessens the power of the abuser’s sales job. You know the one I mean. The one where you are the “boring” or “crazy” parent and he/she is the FUN one! Ask your kids for input.
Create a new vision of whatever holiday you celebrate, and have a good time with whatever time you have. I promise you will all feel better.
Focus on Empowerment and Safety
My children’s biological father threatened to disappear with my kids in such a way that I would “never find them.” He made this threat in front of multiple witnesses at his office in response to finding out that I had gone on a trip with my boyfriend during his visitation time. From then on, I made sure my girls knew that anything their father asserted about my safety or situation was backed up with a code word.
Just as I used the code word system for strangers, my kids knew that if he ever told them that I was sick or injured or had suddenly given permission for them to leave the country, he would have to tell them the code word. For little ones, the code word can be a code color or animal, whatever is easiest to remember.
Do Not, Not, Not Use the Kids For Information!
No matter how much you want to do not use the kids for information, because it’s stressful for them. However, GPS trackers and phone activity trackers which can be installed and run in the background of your kid’s phone can be golden.
When mine began blocking my ability to reach them when they were with him, it took one time of me having to get my attorney involved before I loaded trackers on everything my kids carried…phones, iPods, etc. I knew where they were at all times. It was also quite funny when I busted my ex swapping out the SIM card from their Go Phone in order to try to get information. My kids were young enough then that they had no idea what a SIM card was or how/why you would switch it out.
Do Things for You
I mean it. Once you have sent the children off, you are in a terror zone like no other. You must diligently take care of your own mental and physical health during this time. Get enough rest, eat healthfully (and have some treats), and surround yourself with support. If you need to be alone and cry, do it. If you need to punch a pillow, do it. There is no dispute that this sucks completely, but you driving yourself into the ground won’t help anybody.
Resolve to be at your best when your kids come home so you can all enjoy the reunion. Then plan one special thing to do together once they’re home. My favorite was sitting on the floor on a blanket eating cheesecake together and telling funny stories about what the pets did while they were gone.
There is no part about this that isn’t a form of torture. You know you are sending your babies into what can best be described as a war zone.
You will have to create ways to cope, protect them, and be a safe place to return to. You can do it, because you are their source of Love…and you are a warrior.