Children’s Whispers in Divorce: A Heartfelt Dialogue with Despina Mavridou

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Episode Description

Can you imagine going through a divorce and having to feel your parents' anger and watch their tears, but NOT be able to tell anyone how YOU really felt or what YOU really wanted?

That's exactly what Despina Mavridou experienced as a child going through her parents' divorce.  She was constantly caught in the crossfire of her parents' fights.

"Tell your father this."
"Don't tell your mother that."
"Your father is bad."
"Your mother is wrong."

Despina heard it all.

What's most surprising, though,  is that Despina's parents had an "amicable" divorce (... at least on the surface!) 

Yet the way they treated each other behind the scenes, both during their divorce and for years afterward, was anything but amicable.

Her parents' relationship was so bad that at 16 years old Despina cut off all contact with her father - only to then be chastised by her mother for not wanting to spend time with her dad.

Despina's story is heartbreaking ... but also all too common.

If you're going through a divorce and you have children, this podcast episode will open your eyes to what's really happening with your kids both as you go through your divorce and as you interact with your former spouse afterward.

Show Notes

About Despina

Despina is an author, mediator, and lawyer based in Greece. She has authored the book "Mum, Dad Can You Hear Me?" which explores the topic of divorce through the perspective of a child, drawing from her own personal experience. The book is available in English on all Amazon stores, in Greek by 24grammata Editorial and in Portuguese by Gaudi Editorial. Additionally, Despina has created a diary that can be purchased alongside the book, allowing children to express their thoughts and emotions during this challenging time. The diary is also available on Amazon.

Where to connect with Despina  

You can find Despina on Facebook at Despina Mavridou and on Instagram at Despina Mavridou.  You can find Despina’s book, "Mum, Dad can you hear me?" on Amazon by clicking here.   

Key Takeaways From This Episode with Despina

  • Despina Mavridou is a Greek author, mediator, and lawyer who wrote the book "Mum Dad, Can You Hear Me?" from the perspective of a child going through divorce. 
  • You can find Despina's book, "Mum, Dad can your hear me?" on Amazon by clicking here.
  • The book started as a letter Despina wrote to her parents at age 40, expressing what she wished they had done differently during their divorce when she was ages 12-18.
  • As a child, Despina felt like a mediator between her parents and was expected to take care of her mother emotionally. This put a huge burden on her. 
  • Her parents would use her to send messages to each other and put her in the middle of their conflicts. This was very frustrating and confusing for Despina.
  • At age 16, Despina cut off contact with her father for several years because she couldn't handle being caught in the middle anymore. 
  • The book aims to help parents understand divorce from a child's perspective and see the emotional rollercoaster they go through. It encourages parents to get help processing the emotions of divorce so they don't unintentionally hurt their kids.
  • Despina hopes the book helps kids understand they have a right to not be put in the middle and don't have to hear accusations about their parents. She wrote a diary for kids to express their feelings.
  • The effects of parental divorce can be long-lasting into adulthood. Despina encourages parents to protect kids from extended family gossip and not burden them with adult responsibilities.
  • The key message is for divorcing parents to get emotional help so they can support their kids properly during this difficult transition.
  • Do you like what you've heard? 

    Share the love so more people can benefit from this episode too!


    Children's Whispers in Divorce:  A Heartfelt Dialogue with Despina Mavridou

    Despina Mavridou


     children, mediator, conflict


    Karen Covy,  Despina Mavridou

    Karen Covy Host00:10

    Hello and welcome to Off the Fence, a podcast where we deconstruct difficult decision making so we can discover what keeps us stuck and, more importantly, how we can get unstuck and start making even tough decisions with confidence. I'm your host, karen Covey, a former divorce lawyer, mediator and arbitrator, turned coach, author and entrepreneur. And now, without further ado, let's get on with the show with me. Today, I am so excited to have Despina Mavridou. Despina is an author, mediator and lawyer based in Greece. The name of her book is Mom Dad, can you Hear Me? Which explores the topic of divorce through the perspective of a child. The book is available in English on Amazon and in Greek by 24 Gramata editorial and in Portuguese by Gaudi editorial. Despina has also created a diary that goes with the book, which children can use to express their thoughts and emotions during the challenging time of their parents' divorce. Despina, thank you so much for agreeing to be on the show.

    Despina Mavridou Guest01:22

    Thank you, Karen, I'm really happy to be here.

    Karen Covy Host01:25

    I'm excited because you are officially making this show international. You're my first guest. I am thrilled beyond words. I think it was awesome. I'm happy for that. But it also goes to show that the topic of divorce and all the decisions that go along with it, really it's global. This is not just something that happens in the United States, to Americans or to North Americans. It's about a phenomenon that's happening all over the world and it's something that's an important topic to talk about. And what I want to focus on with you is your book, your story. Your book is written for children, from the perspective of a child. I just wondered if you could share with the audience what motivated you to write this book.

    Despina Mavridou Guest02:16

    Yes, first of all, the book started as a letter to my parents because I wanted to write to them when I was around 40 years old not young when I started, because it took me years to start understanding certain things that happened and came with me with the divorce. So at around 40 years old, I decided to write a letter to them after the discussion I had with my therapist. So I wrote what I wanted from them to do for me as a child, what I needed as a child during the divorce, and I wrote down certain things like I don't want you to put me in the middle of the fight. I don't want to know who pays more for me, more money for me. I don't want you to accuse each other in front of me or to try to minimize the gifts that I get from the other parent, or I don't want you to tell me things about the third person in the relationship, because my dad had a relationship with another woman and I thought at that time that she was the problem.


    It took me years to realize that this was not the main issue and anyway, I wrote this letter with certain things that I wanted to tell them and I never had the courage to do it. And when I did this and I wrote everything down, I realized that this could become something bigger, because I know that kids are quite voiceless during the divorce. They, of course the judge and the system is trying to hear them, is trying to protect them. The parents try to do everything for their kids but because I went through this, I know deep in my heart that it's really difficult for the kids to express themselves and to explain how difficult their position is.

    Karen Covy Host04:33

    Yeah, let's take you back. I mean, what you're saying is just. I don't think there is a more important message for parents to hear and, to your point, most parents they love their children. They're not trying to hurt their children, but what I hear you saying is that they don't really understand what their children is going through and that their children can't express it. So if you can take us back a little bit to when you were going through your parents' divorce, which is what started this whole thing, when my parents, for example, took the divorce, it was an amicable divorce on documents.

    Despina Mavridou Guest05:20

    We didn't go to the court, they just issued the divorce and everything went very smoothly. But the reality behind that was completely different because, for example, when I had to go and visit my dad, my mom was telling me to ask him for money, to ask to say certain things to him. They were telling me that your dad abandoned you for another woman. And then when I was hearing these things and I was transferring the messages, of course my dad was answering back. So I was the mediator and actually I was the adult in the room, like I like to say, because there was a lot of hunger and frustration from both sides and they were feeling hurt, both of them. The problem was that they were trying to use me as a weapon.

    Karen Covy Host06:22

    Yeah, and how old were you when this was happening?

    Despina Mavridou Guest06:25

    It started when I was 12 and it went on until 18. And the only way that I found to stop this thing and not to be in the middle at some point, I just decided that I don't want to see my dad anymore.

    Karen Covy Host06:44

    And how old were you when you made that decision?

    Despina Mavridou Guest06:47

    I was 16 more or less, if I remember correctly.

    Karen Covy Host06:52

    And what were you thinking? What prompted you to make that decision? What was your thought process like at that time?

    Despina Mavridou Guest07:01

    Well, what I was telling to the others was that my dad is the bad guy, as you're telling me, and I don't want to see him anymore because he doesn't care about us, he doesn't pay money for us and all these things. But the reality behind this and this is why I'm saying that kids don't really express themselves what I was really thinking was that I can't do this thing anymore. I can't be in the middle anymore. I was trying to please both of them, because this is what the kids are trying to do. They want to be accepted and they are trying. It's a survival mode for the kids. So I was trying to please both of them and when I was with my mom, I was trying to say the things that my mom wanted to hear. When I was my dad, I was trying to say the things that he wanted to hear, and I want to be the good girl for both of them. I didn't want to disappoint them, to hurt them more, to make them more angry. So this was really frustrated for me.

    Karen Covy Host08:08

    At the time? I mean, I know this might be an impossible question to answer, but do you think there was anything that they could have done that would have made you feel differently at that time?

    Despina Mavridou Guest08:25

    Well now, I believe that if they had elaborate their feelings, if they went to, for example, to a divorce court or to a therapist, they, I think that they would be able to help me indirectly.

    Karen Covy Host08:40

    So I take it they didn't do that and so you. They were using you and I can't. I can't believe that they were trying to hurt you as their child. They were just getting back to each other, right?

    Despina Mavridou Guest08:54

    Exactly. Yes, they didn't want to hurt me. I know that. I know that and they had told me also. Both of them and my mom asked me so many times for what she did at that time. But the point is that this creates a lot of frustration in me and also I had many emotions that I couldn't express for many, many years, and the fact that I lost contact with my dad and my also with his family is something that it hurt me now. But now I can express it also because at that time I couldn't say that.

    Karen Covy Host09:36

    Well, and it sounds like you didn't have the language for it. I mean not that at 16 years old, you couldn't talk. I mean, of course you could, but the idea, I think what you're trying to say and you tell me if I'm wrong is that you didn't have the emotional depth at 16 years old to know oh, this is you know, this is what I'm feeling, this is what the experience is, this is what I want them to like. You just couldn't say all of that at the time.

    Despina Mavridou Guest10:04

    I couldn't Exactly. I couldn't understand because I was taking for granted that my dad is the bad guy because he had a relationship. He abandoned my mom and his family, including me. So this made me feel bad and I was feeling that I have to be the strong person because my mom wasn't feeling very well and she was emotionally, she was really in a very bad place. So I was feeling that I have to protect her and I have to choose side. And all these decisions were made actually unconsciously, because I didn't have the maturity to understand and to decide as another certain things. I was trying to survive actually.

    Karen Covy Host10:53

    And what I really hope that people hear you saying is you were 16 at this time. It's not like you were six or six months, right? So we all like especially in today's world the teenagers all want to believe, and I wanted to believe when I was a teenager. I understand things, I know how the world works and I thought I was so grown up, and what I hear you saying is that really, teenagers still have a lot of growing to do and there are things that they can't express even though they might think they can.

    Despina Mavridou Guest11:28

    Yes, because they don't know how the world works. They understand this later.

    Karen Covy Host11:35


    Despina Mavridou Guest11:37

    So I think that I couldn't express myself to anyone. I didn't confess to my best friend that my mom, my parents, are getting a divorce.

    Karen Covy Host11:49

    Wow. So when you maybe unconsciously made the decision that that's it, you don't want to see your dad anymore, what did you do? I mean, I take it that there was a period of time that you didn't see them, but how did that come to be? Did you just say to him or to your mom, I don't want to see him? Did they make it official through the courts, or you just didn't go?

    Despina Mavridou Guest12:09

    Not through the court. No, I told my mom, and she told him that they don't want to see you. The strange thing was, though, that my mom told me that this is something wrong and you need to do the right thing and go and see your dad, which makes me really confused, because I was thinking that I was doing the right thing.

    Karen Covy Host12:35

    Oh my. So it sounds like what you're saying is that you thought you were doing the right thing and your mother had been telling you how bad your dad was. But the minute you said, okay, he's bad, I don't want to see him, she said no, you have to do the right thing and see him. I mean, you can see like people don't realize how what they say, of how children take it.

    Despina Mavridou Guest13:00

    And that was also the older daughter, so I had also the burden of all the decisions. And my sister was not hiding, but you know she was younger, so they didn't expect things from her. But they were expecting for me to be mature, to decide, to say certain things, to do the mediator to try to help my mom. So the burden was really huge in my shoulders.

    Karen Covy Host13:30

    So when you it sounds like you broke with your dad at about 16. How long did it take before you saw him again and started to repair that relationship?

    Despina Mavridou Guest13:42

    Well, at 18 years old I saw him for a little bit because he came to my graduation and this was very awkward moment for me because they were both in the same place and I was afraid that they will start fighting and I just wanted to finish. You know, with the graduation day that you know many people have many good memories and they are getting for pictures with their friends and everything. It was one of the worst days in my life at that time and, of course, after that it took me three, four years to see him again, the last five years that I have reestablished the relationship in a more mature way.

    Karen Covy Host14:32

    So the last I'm discussing.

    Despina Mavridou Guest14:34

    I mean, I am calling him, I ask him how he is and he calls me back and he feels free to talk to me and to call me. But still, what I did is that I said to my mom look that I'm having a relationship with my dad, but don't ever ask me how he is, what he's doing and what he asks me. I will not transfer anything to you.

    Karen Covy Host15:01

    You know that what you're saying. I've heard from other adult children whose parents divorced, or parents with children who are now adults, who say look, once they get the language and the maturity and the knowledge to know that there's something called a boundary, and you don't have to tell them everything and they get that concept, it really works to say to your parents no, I'm just not, I'm not going to talk to you about that, it's not your business, but as a child you don't. To do that would be really scary.

    Despina Mavridou Guest15:38

    Yes, I couldn't do that. I was feeling that I'm the bad girl, I'm not taking care of my mom. If I do that, like I'm betraying her, I'm doing something bad to her.

    Karen Covy Host15:53

    Wow. So you went through this divorce, which you know. The other thing that I find interesting about your story is that your parents didn't have the ugly divorce where they were fighting each other in court. Like on paper, everything looked amicable. So what I'm gathering from this is that it's more than just how it looks like on paper that makes a difference.

    Despina Mavridou Guest16:22

    Yes. And so and the lawyers knew that also. The strange thing is that, for example, my mom's lawyer didn't really know what she was asking me to do. She still, even today, she tells me that your mom was trying to do everything for you. She came to my office and she said that I want for the kids the best for the kids. She didn't know, for example, that my mom was asking me to say to my dad that you need to sign for the house to come in my name, for example.

    Karen Covy Host16:58

    Yeah. So the message that I hear you saying and that I really hope that anyone who's getting divorced with children hears is don't put your kids in the middle. And so your parents probably didn't mean to, but they did. You break with your dad, and then you know I'm going to bring you back to the point now where you're writing this letter. What was the point of the letter that you were writing to your parents? What were you trying to accomplish?

    Despina Mavridou Guest17:34

    I wanted to express myself, to say the divorce from my point of view, because I knew my dad's story, I knew my mom's story, but never nobody asked my story, my divorce story as a kid, because also for the kid there is a story there.

    Karen Covy Host17:55

    Yeah, of course there is, because your parents’ divorce affects your life in a major way.

    Despina Mavridou Guest18:01

    Yes, but everybody hears the parties, the parents everybody hears the stories of the parents. Nobody asked the story of the kid.

    Karen Covy Host18:15

    Yeah, I agree, and that's so you write this letter. Did you ever give it to them?

    Despina Mavridou Guest18:25

    No, I just published the book and I didn't have the courage to tell them that I published the book.

    Karen Covy Host18:33

    Oh no, do they know that now, or yes, they?

    Despina Mavridou Guest18:36

    know now, my mom didn't like it.

    Karen Covy Host18:41

    Not surprising. But so you write this book, and what do you hope to accomplish with the book?

    Despina Mavridou Guest18:52

    Well, I really hope to help parents understand the point of view of the kids, to understand their feelings, to understand how bad kids feel when they are in the middle and all the emotional rollercoaster. I really want the parents to get in their kids shoes and see the divorce from the kids' eyes. And that sorry.

    Karen Covy Host19:22

    No, go ahead.

    Despina Mavridou Guest19:24

    And for the children. I want them to understand that they have the possibility to express themselves and that they have the right to ask from their parents not to be in the middle and not to know about they don't have. They are not obliged to know who pays more for them.

    Karen Covy Host19:48


    Despina Mavridou Guest19:50

    And they are not obliged to hear the accusations. Also, because you know, sir, I will say this and I will. You know, when you are husband and wife, you get the divorce and then you put a necks in front of the world and you know that you finish with this person, but a kid can never finish with a parent. So imagine, for example, your parents that are fighting and they are telling you that your dad is blah blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, but it's still your dad. You can never get rid of him.

    Karen Covy Host20:28


    Despina Mavridou Guest20:29

    Yeah, how will you survive if the most important people in your life, if you feel that the most important persons in your life, which are your parents, they are not so good, for example, people, and you have in your head all these accusations?

    Karen Covy Host20:46

    Right You know I don't think that parents ever intend to hurt their children in this way, but I think it's so important that they hear your message because it's so easy when you're going through a divorce to get caught up in your own emotions, your own stuff. You don't think, maybe, that you're putting your kids in the middle. But so many times I've had parents just not realize that you cannot give a check to the child to say, give this to your mom or give this to your dad, it's to pay for your ex, whatever ex is right. Or tell your mother that this or tell your father that that that a child is not the postal service, right, not that. And when you put the child in that position, the child suffers.

    Despina Mavridou Guest21:43

    Yes, exactly.

    Karen Covy Host21:45

    Now I know that from our discussions that you are a strong believer that children, during a divorce, also have to make decisions Everybody thinks about. Well, the parents have to decide. You know the money and the schedules and all the things, but even kids have to make decisions. What kinds of decisions do you think that children have to make while they're going through a divorce?

    Despina Mavridou Guest22:14

    For me, the also the fact that they are trying to please their parents is a decision for them and also the most simple thing. For example, the kid goes out with dad and after two, three hours goes home and mom asks him how was your day with dad? Even though there is an unconscious decision for the kid because if, for example, he says that I had a great time, maybe he feels guilty. If he says that, yes, it was okay, but I get bored, he feels guilty for that Because probably he said to his dad I had a great time with you. So these are all unconscious decisions that kids constantly take during the divorce. They don't even realize it. They just try to please both parents and they are feeling really hurt because they have them both in their heart but they cannot please them both.

    Karen Covy Host23:11

    Well, let's take you out of the child's perspective for a second. And let's say you're the parent and your child just came from the other parent's house. How do you think what would you say to a parent who says, look, I am not trying to question the child about what they did with dad or if they had a good time, but I'm interested in their life. I'm just wondering what they did. It's not like they're trying to interrogate the child and get information about the other parent. What would you say to that parent? How do they find that balance?

    Despina Mavridou Guest23:47

    Well, it needed to build some trust with the kids so as to be able to express himself with freedom. Because, for example, the kid needs to feel free to say also the good things and maybe also the bad things. But you have not to react to both of these situations to try to feel. For example, if the kid comes from school and says something that you don't like, probably you will call the teacher after, but in front of the kid you will not react in the same way. You will try to feel calm, to be calm and to say that it's okay. I think it's the same thing. When the kid comes from the other parent, you need to be neutral and I think that it's nice also to show to the kid that when he is out with his dad, you also had a good time, you had plans, you went out, you did things for you, you took care of yourself, so the kids can see that he can take care of himself as well and have a good time with his other parent.

    Karen Covy Host24:57

    That's beautiful information. It goes back to that children learn not just by what you say, but by what you do, and so if they see that you're okay, they're going to be better.

    Despina Mavridou Guest25:16

    Yes, and they will feel free to express themselves also, and if they like something, they will share it. If they don't like something, they will also share it.

    Karen Covy Host25:27

    What do you think? I know you've written a diary to go with your book and I'm assuming that that's for the children to write down how they feel. Can you say more about that and why? How important it is? Because it seems like some children, no matter how much you try to get through to the parents, the parents don't get it, they don't understand. And so is the reason that you wrote the diary like at least that gives the child some place to express themselves.

    Despina Mavridou Guest26:02

    Exactly this is the reason that I created, because the writing helped me also to express my feelings and my thoughts that I couldn't share with anyone. Because how a kid can say, for example, that he still loves his dad, if he hears all day his mom accusing the dad? And not only is not only mom and dad, it's also the grandparents and all the relatives that come with.

    Karen Covy Host26:37

    That's a good point. Can you say more about that?

    Despina Mavridou Guest26:40

    You know what I realized? None of my relatives told me you need to take care of yourself, you need to take care of your feelings. None of them told me that Everybody was telling me that you need to take care of your mom. She doesn't feel very well right now.

    Karen Covy Host26:58

    Oh, my so. And how old were you when they were telling you this?

    Despina Mavridou Guest27:04

    Well, I started when I was 12.

    Karen Covy Host27:10

    At 12 years old. From 12 years old on, you were supposed to be the adult taking care of your mother, Because also the grandparents are feeling really hurt.

    Despina Mavridou Guest27:23

    They are leaving the divorce together with the parents. At least in Greece is like that Our culture is.

    Karen Covy Host27:35

    You know that what you say is a really, really good point and it's something that I think a lot of divorcing parents might not think about. But it's like to also, not that they can control what their relatives or parents or whatever say to the children, but to at least make a conscious effort to protect the child from those kinds. The grandparents think the father or the mother, whoever is a bad person.


    They can have their opinion, Just don't tell it to the kids Don't share it, yes, and don't make it the child's responsibility to take care of the parent who can't handle their own emotions. Exactly, that is really sad, but the message that you shared with us today is so. It hits right in my heart, because it's a message that I think parents need to hear, and it's one you went through all of this at 12 to 18, when you were a teenager, essentially, but yet you're still feeling the effects decades later as an adult. So this is something that parents need to hear, because the effects are so long lasting.

    Despina Mavridou Guest29:00


    Karen Covy Host29:01

    And if you had one message to give to people parents who are divorcing what would that message be?

    Despina Mavridou Guest29:10

    Ask for help, not from lawyers, but from therapists, from divorce coaches, from mentors, from people that can help them with their emotions, because if you don't handle the emotion and the trauma that divorce brings sometimes, you will not be able to help your kids. The way that you will handle your emotion. That the parent will handle the emotion will 100% help the kid to overcome the divorce as well.

    Karen Covy Host29:45

    That's so important. It's a beautiful message. And if there are I don't know that there are younger people, teenagers, listening to this podcast. But if you had a message for them and their parents are getting divorced, what would you say to them? What can they do?

    Despina Mavridou Guest30:03

    Well, this is hard because it's really in my heart that teenagers that are going through something like that they are really in my heart. I would say that they have the right to ask from their parents the things that they want, that they have the right not to hear certain things, not to be in certain discussions, not to know about what happened if they don't want to know about the accusations and everything about money, and to try to express themselves as much as they can and to feel, to be authentic with themselves.

    Karen Covy Host30:43


    Despina Mavridou Guest30:45

    That's not to hide the emotion because, for example, for me, for years I was trying to be strong and I hidden my emotions and I couldn't express them. I couldn't cry, for example, because I wanted to be strong for my mom.

    Karen Covy Host31:02

    Oh my, Despina. You have a beautiful message. I hope everyone listening goes out and buys your book. If they have children, get them the diary. Give the children a way to express themselves. Thank you so much for being here, for sharing your story. Can you tell people where they can find you and where they can get the book?

    Despina Mavridou Guest31:28

    The book is available on all Amazon stores in English and in Portuguese. It's from Gaudí editorial. The diary also is on Amazon. It's only in English, and they can find me on Facebook and Instagram. It's under my name, Despina Mavridou author and they will find me and I will be happy to hear also the feedback. Or if they want to ask me anything about the book or my story, I will be happy to answer.

    Karen Covy Host32:01

    Thank you so much. Thank you for your generosity and courage in sharing the story, because even though you're an adult now, your mom still didn't want to hear this, didn't want to know about the book. So it still took a lot of courage to step up and say no, I have a voice.

    Despina Mavridou Guest32:20

    Yes, it's true, it was hard for me, it took me time and when I published I still felt guilty. But then I said, okay, this is my story because the story is based on real facts, on what happened in my case. Of course, the end of the story is different, but the facts are from my personal story and in the end I said, yes, this is my story and I have the right to publish it.

    Karen Covy Host32:49

    That's beautiful, and I think the world is going to be a better place since you did so. Thank you.

    Despina Mavridou Guest32:55

    Thank you again.

    Karen Covy Host32:57

    And for all of you listening or watching. If you liked the episode, give it a thumbs up like subscribe go to Amazon and buy Despina's book, and I look forward to talking with you again next time.

    Head shot of Karen Covy in an Orange jacket smiling at the camera with her hand on her chin.

    Karen Covy is a Divorce Coach, Lawyer, Mediator, Author, and Speaker. She coaches high net worth professionals and successful business owners to make hard decisions about their marriage with confidence, and to navigate divorce with dignity.  She speaks and writes about decision-making, divorce, and living life on your terms. To connect with Karen and discover how she can help you, CLICK HERE.


    children and divorce, divorce books, divorce coach, off the fence podcast

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