Two days this week, in addition to the infamous Mr. E, I nannied I little girl I use to watch regularly two years ago. She’s spunky, brave (to a fault, I now have a box of bandaids to prove it!), insightful, & loving. She also, newly, happens to be a child of divorce. That fact coupled with her being weeks away from the same age I was the first time my parents were getting divorced (the time they should’ve gone all the way) has really taken me back. It’s a psychedelic hazy ride into the life I, for years, have tried to forget about. It’s a part of me that still hurts. A part that’s remembers, all too well, how this hurt was made worse by the adults around me at that point in my life.
&, as my mamaw says, it got me to thinking….
I’ve thought about all the things I so wished had gone differently in relation to how their divorce was handled (both times). Observing this sweet little girl this week also made me aware of all the needs divorced children have…the needs that are sometimes unseen by two very angry parties. The needs that are, all too often, afraid to be asked for.
So here you have it……
My plea to divorced parents (written by a child of divorce):
-Please do not speak negatively of the other parent in front of your children. Even if they’re in the same room preoccupied by something else, I PROMISE YOU, at the mention of the other parent’s name their little ears will perk up & absorb everything you’re about to say. & it will hurt. It will hurt a lot. What you may not realize in doing this is that you’re making your child feel bad (whether this is evidenced or not). You’re speaking badly about the other part of them & making them feel as if they are somehow bad, too. The first piece of advice I would give any parent going through a divorce is to avoid speaking negatively about their ex spouse in front of their children. & don’t allow others to do so either!
-Do not place blame on the other parent. Both times my parents got divorced, as well as all the times my dad got thrown out of our home, I cannot tell you how many times both of my parents told me, “This is your mommy’s/daddy’s fault.” “Mommy is making me leave.” This is just confusing & wrong.
-Don’t share the details of your impeding divorce with your children. My whole life, I was aware-either by my grandparents, or my mother-when my dad had a new girlfriend, when he was abusing drugs, & when he was an alcoholic. The last time, just before they got divorced, my mother even took me with her to look for my dad. After driving by a local bar, we drove up to the home of the woman she thought he was sleeping with (I shit you not). Do I even need to explain why this is inappropriate?
-Don’t make your children pick sides. To this day, my parents LOVE talking about each other, it’s like a sick, twisted sport to them. They also love any chance they can get to, “one up,” the other. You’d think after seven years of divorce this would’ve died down….nope! In the moment (when they were going though their divorces), I can’t count the times one of them would try to convince me that the other was bad. That, all because of the other persons actions, we didn’t have a family any more.
-Be understanding of how tight holiday schedules are. Even as an adult, my parent’s divorce still effects me. In my current life, it effects my holiday timeframe. Because my parents are divorced, I automatically have two homes to go to on Thanksgiving & Christmases. I also have my grandmother & now my in laws. Can you say crazy day?? Please understand that your adult children probably also have around 4-6 stops that day. Don’t make us feel bad that we can’t stay longer. We may want to…but, as time allows, there are only 24 hours in a day. Did I mention holidays are stressful in & of themselves, child of divorce or not?
-If you’re in the same reason, speak to each other! Be friendly. When you don’t you’re making everyone in the room feel awkward, not just your children. While I use to hear (& sometimes still do) “You’re stuck with dealing with her/him for 18 years!” No, no you’re not….you’re stuck with it for life. You have children together. You’ll share the same grandchildren. There will be so many graduations, weddings, Birthdays, holidays, & births that far surpass those 18 years. Be civil, if for no other reason, do it for your children. You can go home afterwards & go back to throwing darts at your ex spouses face I promise.
Divorces are hard for everyone but even more so for children. Even under the most perfect of circumstances, divorces can permanently scar children. If you can lessen the damage for them at all, please do so.