Fellow parents, this post is coming from a place of love and concern. I am probably going to get some slack from some reading this post. They may think “You don’t know my position/what I have to deal with/what my child deals with.” You are correct, I do not. I am 100% thinking of your kid’s point of view.
In my head, I picture the kids who think both of their parents are superheroes, the two people that love them most in all the world and chose them to be their son or daughter…to only be told by one of the parents that there is much to be desired regarding the other parent. I am thinking of the little guy whose parents make him/her choose who they want to be we with for a special event or holiday and they aren’t sure who to choose because they don’t want to “make the other parent feel sad or lonely.” I am thinking of the kid that misses a parent, but their other parent will not support them by trying to contact that parent for a quick visit simply because they don’t like the other parent.
Not only am I a child of divorced parents, but I have seen this scenario happen time and time again with other people in my life and it makes me cringe. Don’t make your kid your “friend” when getting a divorce, after the divorce, etc (aka don’t forget that they are a kid). They are a product of that relationship of which at one time, there was love.
I want you to think of yourself in your child’s shoes for a moment. They love their mom and dad dearly. You both mean everything to them. You both are their everything. They may have hair like mom and a spunky personality like dad. They look in the mirror and at a time in their life when it is so important to kids to feel like they fit in, or have a place, a family… they see both of their parents when they look in a mirror. Now picture one of those parents choosing to tell that kid about the flaws in the other parent. Not only are you breaking down one of the biggest role models in their life, you are, in a sense, telling them that part of them is not so good; you may very well be making them question their worth.
To take it a step further, you are sabotaging their relationship with their other parent. Now the next time they see that parent, they have to decide if they want to keep what you said a secret from their other parent or if they want to be open with that parent, sharing these comments, and then likely hearing negative things about you in return. Try to remember the good things you know about your child’s other parent and share only those things. You will make a lifetime of a difference.
This post may come off as a bit jaded, but rather, my goal is to get your attention.
I think most parents that fall into these scenarios described above, don’t realize that they are doing it or they think that they are protecting their child by telling them “the truth.” In my opinion, “the truth” about the other parent is up to your child(ren) to decide as they get older and better get to know your ex.
I also know many people in my life who did divorce right (if that is a thing) in my book. When I was a kid, I had a classmate whose dad, mom, and stepmom all went to the same church and sat in the same row. That classmate never had to make the heartbreaking decision of what church pew to sit in and what parent would have to sit alone. I have a close friend whose parents got divorced after she became an adult, and they celebrate all the holidays with both parents and their new partners. Her parents are rockstars in my book!
Now I know that cooperative parenting after a divorce is not easy and it takes both parents to make it work. If you are reading this and thinking, “But my child’s other parent won’t cooperate, they will not work with me and try to talk me down every chance I get,” I challenge you to be the example, take the high road, show them what a class act that you are. Don’t talk down to your child’s other parent in front of them. Make holidays and special occasions as easy as possible and try to celebrate them together (or at least share the day) if that is possible. Never let your child feel responsible for mediating between the two of you, being a sounding board, or a shoulder to cry on.
Don’t get me wrong. I definitely think that the adults who are getting a divorce do need a place to vent. A big change is happening in your life. Your “normal” is changing. Who are good people to talk/vent to? Caring friends and family, counselor (everyone can benefit from a neutral person to talk to), and a men’s/women’s group (many churches and non-churches offer these) just to name a few. Now is also a great time to take some time for yourself and try a new hobby or brush up on an old one. You may make some new friends in a 6 a.m. spin class or cake decorating class. It doesn’t matter where you make friends, so long as they’re not your kids.