In working with children, I hear them talk about some of the most interesting experiences when mom and dad are divorced. One of the most common themes is related to how parents fight over their time. One young lady I worked with said she feels like “a pawn in a game of chess” and her parents are always trying to force her to come and go in a way that does not feel like love. Another young man I have worked with expressed how he feels “torn apart” because his divorced parents talk bad about each other, and he is always forced to pick a favorite. For children, they usually want everyone to get along and to not make it hard on them to spend time with each side of the family.
With the holidays upon us, most families will have special gatherings for meals, travel and the exchanging of gifts and presents. One of the things that kids of divorce wish they could receive is the “freedom to love both” and everyone be OK with it. The issues of loyalty and who to believe, who to listen to and who to talk openly with is an on-going struggle for some children impacted by divorce.
What if divorced parents started saying to their children, “You don’t have to pick a favorite. You have two homes full of families that love you and you don’t have to like one more than the other.” What if at Thanksgiving time divorced parents worked together, in advance, to make the experience of sharing time an easy, stress-free experience for their shared children, instead of an emotional tug of war? What if, each co-parent looked at their child’s schedule as the priority instead of their own? I believe children have the right to enjoy the love and care of each side of the family, their parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles and to enjoy that time without any negativity about the other parent. When kids hear negative comments said about people they love, it is like a shock or pain to their own hearts. Children internalize negative comments and quite often feel like something is bad about themselves when they hear their mom or dad talk negative about their other parent. They know they come from both, they are genetically and emotionally connected to both, and yet, so many kids (especially at Christmas and Thanksgiving) don’t have the “emotional permission” to love and enjoy both. They live a life of playing favorites and managing their words and time like they are on the clock – always stressing about what it “fair” and what is “justified.” If you know a divorced parent, or you are a divorced parent, please consider how hard it is for the shared children to be caught in the middle. Maybe this year can be the year of sharing thankfulness and being generous and intentional with time, words and emotional content so your children than enjoy the freedom to love and enjoy everyone!!
A co-parent of 21 years, Tammy Daughtry / Founder, CoParentingInternational.com / Nashville, TN