One of the most challenging first steps for parents to take after deciding that their marriage has ended is deciding how to tell their children about the split. For Family Justice Advocates in Action Divorce Psychologist, Miguel Alvarez discusses why it is important for parents to talk to each other before they have that important discussion with their children.
Most loving parents want to provide their children with a special, magical celebration of the holidays. Most of us can remember Christmas or Hanukkah celebrations that are amongst the most cherished of childhood memories. So how does a responsible parent, going through a divorce keep from succumbing to the temptation to provide extra goodies to compensate for the divorce?
Most importantly, things can never compensate for the pain and loss that a child experiences from divorce. I have worked with many children of divorce and have had the chance to interview them during the process as well as when they reached adulthood. Not one child ever said, “Yeah, the divorce was a bummer but I loved my bike, gaming system, or new golf clubs.” If you find yourself trapped in the “one up” game with your former spouse, bow out gracefully. There is no upside to “winning” this game. Things simply cannot replace the disequilibrium that most children experience and work through during a separation and divorce. So what can you do?
Give your children the gift of a “drama-free” holiday celebration. Allow your children to experience cherished memories with each of their parents. Show approval and support instead of jealousy and contempt when your child shares positive experiences or stories about their time with the other parent. For instance if their Dad decides to take them skiing for the holiday break tell them, “That sounds super fun! I can’t wait to hear all about it. Your dad was one of the top skiers out of all of our friends in college, I bet he can really teach you some things.” A simple, neutral comment such as this is the sort of thing that adult children of divorce have reported to me meant the world to them at the time.
Treat your former spouse with dignity and respect, particularly in front of the children. Help your child to pick out a special gift for the other parent. It isn’t the child’s responsibility-they likely do not have a bank account or car so they need your help. The gift is not from you, it’s from your child. This is one of the most sacred things you can do for your child in the midst of a separation or divorce. Remember not worry if it doesn’t come back the other way. It is all about your child.
Start new traditions, play a family game with a final championship winner that does not have to do their chores for the week, share an experience together like attending a concert or learning a new skill, create a cherished memory or tradition, not an arsenal of gifts. In the end, you will have a healthier child and perhaps, a healthier pocketbook!
Psychological services are offered through Love & Alvarez Psychology. Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and are not intended as legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Intended for educational purposes only and not intended as individualized advice or a guarantee that you will achieve a desired result.