Recently, my oldest child has expressed certain feelings about her father and she’s begun to ask questions. I knew how I did not want to handle this, but I was not sure how I did want to handle it. After my mother passed away, not many people had pleasant things to say about my father. I can understand their feelings, but they should not have put all of that pressure to hate him on me or my siblings. Naturally, I am determined not to do the same thing to my children. I have been on a mission to find what I believe is the best approach for my family. The goal, of course, being that I won’t screw my children up for life. *Fingers crossed*
Keep it honest & simple. You want your explanations to be truthful and to the point, but your child does not need to know all the details of what was said and done to you. They are not your best friend or therapist, to pile on all of your personal feelings and troubles. It is too heavy a burden to place on your child, in my humble opinion. Keep your explanation to their level of understanding and keep it simple.
“Remember when we lived with Mommy/Daddy and there was all the fighting? How did that make you feel?”
“It was scary.”
“It was scary. Well that is why we have two homes now, so now there is less fighting at home.”
It’s simple. It’s too the point and it’s honest. Does your child really need to know, the hurtful words that were said between you and your former spouse, the countless affairs, or their addiction to gambling that has put your family in a financial mess?
Be a mirror:
If or when your child expresses their feelings about the other parent, validate them. It does not matter if the feelings are of love or hate. Your child has a right to their feelings, and the last thing you want to do, is unknowingly make them feel any sort of guilt or shame. If they talk to you about their feelings, do your best to listen and keep your own opinions out of the conversations.
“I miss my daddy/mommy.”
“It must be really hard not seeing your mommy/daddy every day. It’s okay to miss him/her. Would you like to draw a picture or write a letter to him/her?”
“I hate my daddy/mommy.”
“It’s okay to feel that way. Would you like to talk about why?”
“I hate Daddy/mommy.” or “I miss my Daddy/Mommy.”
“Well you should / shouldn’t, they were a terrible parent. You don’t need them around.”
After you validate their feelings, let your child take it from there, you’re not forcing them to talk. You just want to show that you are supportive of your child’s feelings; whatever they may be. Below are some books that I think would prove helpful, for any children with parents that are divorced or separated.
The Kiss Box by Bonnie Verbug
Dinosaurs Divorce by Marc Brown
Two Homes by Claire Masurel
Mom’s House, Dad’s House For Kids by Isolina Ricci
Was it the Chocolate Pudding? by Sandra Levins
Mister and Me by Kimberly Willis Holt
On the day Daddy left by Eric J. Adams
I hope this post provides some sort of guidance. I learned so much from my children’s therapist and I wanted to share some of her wisdom.