“Why did you and Daddy have to get a divorce?”
“I wish you and Daddy would get married again.”
These are not the easiest things to hear my daughter, who is 7, say to me. She’s been living in a split-family since before she even realized what that meant. Somewhere around 3, she became conscious of the fact that her parents were not married and that she lived in two different houses.
Thank goodness she is such a kind spirit who bounces around happily on most days.
But when the emotions begin to flow, she tends to ask questions and get angry. And this is not my favorite part of parenting. It certainly isn’t the type of conversation I ever thought I’d be having with my child.
So what do I do to help her through these moments? I can’t speak to her from experience. My mom and dad have been married my entire life. They celebrated 46 years on their last anniversary; and while I’m sure they have had their ups and downs, I have never experienced traveling between two homes. My level of understanding my daughter’s frustration is limited.
Unfortunately, these conversations come up a lot these days as she tries to process her situation. Here’s how I’ve worked through it:
- I tell her the truth. Now, I don’t give her the nitty gritty and sordid details of the demise of my relationship with her father. First, she should never really hear that full story, and secondly, she’s too young to understand. But I provide her with a basic, clear response. Plain and simple.
- I listen to her. Most of the time, I can tell she really just wants to be heard. She trusts me and knows she can tell me anything. When she complains about not seeing her dad enough or being angry that we’re not married, I listen, nod, and try my best to let her know that she’s heard.
- I don’t talk trash. No matter how much I was hurt or angry about anything that happened between her father and me, I don’t tell her. She doesn’t need to know all the uglies. Her father is her father, and that’s never going to change. He and she deserve to have a good relationship.
- I give her my time. When she gets home from being away, there is always a transition. As she’s gotten older, it has become easier. That doesn’t mean it’s seamless by any means, but I have learned that one thing she really needs is my attention.
- I’m realistic. She will ask if there’s ever a chance for her father and me to get married again. I don’t give her false hope because no, there’s no chance. I’m remarried. He’s remarried. It’s just never going to happen.
This is the worst part about divorce. It was awful going through it and living with my own pain. But the worst part, by far, has been trying to guide my daughter through all the feelings and realizations that have developed as she’s gotten older and more aware.
I have found that patient, loving answers work the best. In the end, no matter what, she knows that she’s loved, and that’s literally never going to change. Finding bonuses in her situation is often helpful: “You have more people to love you.”
How have you worked with your child to help them through these transitions?
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