Before the Divorce-Part III
In my capacity as an outpatient psychologist, I have for over
twenty years dealt with parents and children who are experiencing
some phase of relationship and usually family dissolution. This
is Part III of a three part series of articles on what parent's might
do before separating and/or divorcing, written from a child's point
of view. Please read Parts I and II before reading this article.
THE KID'S POINT OF VIEW
As the parental union dissolves children's needs surface with
greater intensity. Here's a kind of "wish list" compiled from
kids regarding their needs and their parent's behaviors, as separation
commences. These are the ideas that hopefully will guide parents
when they "do the deed" of actually separating. Many of the following
statements were made, almost verbatim by children.
1) I want both of you to stay involved in my life. That means write
letters, make phone calls, and ask me lots of questions.
If you aren't involved, I feel like I'm not important and that
you don't really love me.
2) I want both of you to stop fighting and work hard to get along
with each other. Try to agree on matters related to me. When you
fight about me, I think that I did something wrong and I feel
3) I want to love you both and enjoy the time that I spend with
each of you. Please support me and the time that I spend with
each of you. If you act jealous or upset, I feel like I need to
take sides and love one parent more than the other.
4) Please communicate directly with my other parent so that I do not
have to send messages back and forth. Do not tell me about adult
stuff. Don't ask me about the other parent or my visits with the
other parent or the other parent's life. I cannot stand being
5) When talking about my other parent, please say only nice things,
or do not say anything at all. When you say mean, unkind things
about my other parent, I feel like you are expecting me to take
6) Please remember that I want both of you to be a part of my life.
I count on my mom and dad to raise me, to teach me what is
important, and to help me when I have problems.
7) Do not one of you move away or try to separate me from either
one of you. I want things to the same as they were before, if
that is possible.
One parent who successfully navigated the ups and downs of this
process likens it to traveling internationally. You don't know what to
expect, but you hope that the children will develop a willingness to be
flexible, adapt to different 'cultures', and learn and grow throughout
the challenges, rather than withdraw. Rather than approach the process
with fear and trepidation, think about the lessons that can be gained and
expect that, with support, the kids will flourish.
For the complete ebook on this subject and a related ebook
("Child Visitation and the Formation of Self-Esteem"), follow the links below.