Despite the fact that parents try to keep their kids out of their marital problems, most children are aware of the issues long before they get “the talk” from a parent… As a child myself who grew up through a hostile divorce, I can attest firsthand to the below statements:
Even if one parent shouldn’t have as much parenting time – maybe they have alcohol or substance issues, or anger management, etc., they are still my parent and thus connected to me forever. You don’t need to tell me the other parent is a bad person, because even if they have problems, they still need my love too. And likewise, I need their love. I want you to both spend time with me. Not for child support, or tax deductions, but because I’m your child and I want you both in my life. Be here for me, and leave me out of the drama.
You know that fight you had downstairs 3 years ago? Yeah, I saw that. The argument after I went to bed last month? Yup, heard it all. The tears, anguish, and drama? Been there, saw that. Even if I don’t want to admit it, odds are I knew it was coming. I’ve seen many of my classmates and friends watch their parents go through divorce. And when I get older, hindsight will definitely be 20/20. So … you don’t have to pretend that everything is ok. You don’t have to give me all the details, but odds are, I’ll give you a hug and tell you it is going to be ok – because that’s what you taught me when things didn’t go my way. Which leads me to my final point:
Just like you know when I’ve eaten cookies out of the cookie jar, or I “cleaned my room” (i.e., piled it all in the closet and finished in 30 seconds), I can tell when you are lying, too. Don’t. It isn’t as if I don’t know. Now, I don’t need all the details – I don’t want EITHER of you throwing the other parent under the bus – but be honest with me. Keep in mind that I’m scared too – what’s going to happen to my dog? What about my toys? Who will tuck me in at night? When will I see the each of you? Who will help me with my homework? Just be honest with me – let me know what is happening, and how my life will be from now on. If I’m old enough, get my opinion. Keeping me somewhat “in the know” will make it easier on us all, and will keep our lines of communication open with each other in the future.
There are a lot of things kids feel when parents go through divorce. Don’t be afraid to seek good professional counseling for yourself and your kids. You’ll be glad you did! And remember, long after the courthouse doors have closed, the case is over, and everybody has moved on, the courtroom of your kids will always remember how you handled yourself in a difficult time. Let the love of your children guide you, and they will remember that, no matter what a judge had to say.