What I need from my parents following divorce.

What I need from my parents following divorce.

The University of Missouri Extension (in 2004) put together a guide to help parents understand the thoughts and feelings their children may have when following parental separation and divorce. The guide includes a lot of practical information such as how to talk to children about divorce, developmental considerations etc. But something that really resonated with me was the statements they included about what a child needs from their parents following divorce, written from a child’s point of view. I have included those statements below (with a few tweaks and added extras of my own).

  1. I need both of you to stay involved in my life. Show interest in my ideas, thoughts, and feelings and what I am up to. When you withdraw or show no interest in me I feel like I’m not important and that you don’t really love me.
  2. Please stop arguing and work hard to get along. I know it’s hard. But when you fight about me, I think that I did something wrong, and I feel guilty. I get distracted and stressed trying to figure out how to fix it and make you both happy, which is really impossible to do when you want completely different things.
  3. I want to love you both and enjoy your company. Please make it easy for me to keep spending time with each of you.  I have enough love to go around. If you act jealous or upset, I can feel like I need to take sides or love one of you more than the other. It’s an impossible choice being asked to pick between the two most important people in my life.
  4. Please share information about me and my activities directly with each other so that I don’t have to send messages back and forth. I need to you to communicate with each other so that information passed on is accurate and so that I don’t feel like I am going to mess up.  
  5. When talking about my other parent, please say only kind things, or don’t say anything at all. When you say mean, unkind things about my other parent, it makes me feel bad about myself and that perhaps you are expecting me to take your side.
  6. It doesn’t help me to hear all the details of what went wrong between you or who is at fault. It just burdens and confuses me. I’m not old enough to understand the ins and outs of how adult relationships work.
  7. Please remember that I need both of you in my life. I count on both of you to raise me, make me feel safe, to teach me what is important, and to help me when I have problems.

    Children experience parental separation differently than adults do and hearing the situation from their perspective is powerful. If you want to delve in further to your child's point of view, here are a couple of suggestions.

    Check out Bella Duncan's blog, A Kid With Two Homes. Bella is a fellow Sydneysider who I follow on instagram and I find her insights as a person whose parents divorced when she was a toddler, so valuable.

    If you are into Podcasts, listen to Grace Casper's Divorce: What I Wish My Parent Know. Grace explores what divorce feels like and looks like for the kids by interviewing others who experienced their parents separation and divorce.

    Split:The Early Years, is a documentary film produced in 2013 that features 12 children aged between 6 and 12 whose parents "spilt" up. It really is quite powerful and worth a watch. It is just kids speaking the powerful truth of what is on their minds and in their hearts as their families change. Their wisdom, candor, and humor give courage to other children and encourage parents to make better choices as they move through divorce.

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