When people ask, “Where did you grow up?” I often reply with a smile, “On the I-25 freeway!” I lived in one city with my mom and visited my dad every other weekend in another. My parents divorced when I was a baby and never lived in the same city after that.
I look back and remember good times with both of my parents present at piano recitals and graduation; however, I also look back and remember how hard it was for me when they argued “through me” about child support, paying for camp, and where I would spend Christmas. I also remember one of my parents being very emotional when I would leave to go to the other home and one of my parents constantly bad-mouthing the other.
Over the years, we have worked with teens and adult children of divorce who were raised in two homes. Many times, they literally wanted to shout, “STOP PUTTING ME IN THE MIDDLE!!!” Unfortunately, most kids never have the courage to speak up and share their voice on these matters. On behalf of hundreds of adult children of divorce, we offer this important insight into the heart and mind of a child of divorce:
- Don’t say mean things about my other parent – I want and need to love you both!
- When you criticize my other parent it makes me angry at YOU!
- Don’t make me pick who I want to spend time with – it’s not fair. Don’t keep track of my time like I’m on the clock. It can’t always be 100 percent fair.
- Handle your financial conversations in private. I don’t want to hear about it and I don’t want to be your messenger.
- Don’t use money to win my love. Be a stable and loving parent and I will love you no matter who has the “most” money.
- Don’t keep me from seeing the other parent. If you do, I’ll grow up and resent you.
- Get a counselor to help you with your problems. I need you to be strong and stable for my well-being. I don’t want to hear about your dating and your problems at work or how much we are struggling financially. Talk to someone else. I need you to be my parent and mentor and lead me in the way you want me to grow up. Don’t make me be YOUR parent.
- The harder you make it on my other parent, the harder you are making it on me.
- Laugh and smile. I want to enjoy my life, and your mood impacts my mood. Find a way to be happy and enjoy your life. I need to have fun and make enjoyable memories with you.
- Don’t forget that I have a divided heart now and I live between two completely different houses, rules, traditions, and attitudes. Be patient with me when I forget things or need some time to adjust from house to house. Please buy me enough stuff that I don’t have to live out of a suitcase my whole life. If you want me to feel “at home” in both places, please set up a full home for me, even if I am only there a few days a month. Things like toothbrushes, shoes, clothes, my favorite cereal, and having cool décor in my room. These all help me feel welcome and at home in both homes. Don’t compete or argue about these things. Just help me not have to feel like a visitor when I am with either parent. Make it as easy on ME as possible!
Parents: Thank you for taking the time to hear these words from many children of divorce. These are the things kids wish they could say, but they can’t find the words or the courage to communicate to you. Do all you can to raise them in a way that celebrates the love of BOTH parents and allows them to have a whole and healthy childhood, despite your divorce! Divorce ends the marriage, not the love between parent and child. They will THRIVE when you allow them to live freely between both mom and dad.
Posted by CoParenting