Here’s the magic word to teach your kids the world won’t end anytime soon…
Most divorced parents never want to admit to our kids, let alone to ourselves, that we not only do we no longer love their other parent, we don’t even like that person much a lot of the time.
We do, however, want our kids to like and love both of their parents for always, which makes for a terrible dilemma. Should we lie to our children about how we really feel?
In the confusion and stress of divorce, we either grit our teeth and bare it in silent agony or end up blurting out something along the lines of “Oh yeah, well why don’t you ask your Mom? She’s the one who…” It likely happens infrequently and unintentionally, but the impact is strong, leaving us feeling guilty, our kids feeling torn and and all of us confused.
What I find helps many parents in this situation is to essentially “pre-explain” such potential outbursts. While kids don’t need to know the details about what went wrong in their parents’ marriage, they should and can understand the concept of “differences in perspective.”
To help your child understand perspective, you can give examples based on their own experiences with friendships.
Let’s say you have a son named Johnny whose best friend is a kid named Aidan. Johnny and Aidan were excited to play together last week, then ended up in a big fight because they just couldn’t agree on what to do.
Johnny wanted to go swimming more than anything in the world while Aidan could not tear himself away from Johnny’s awesome collection of Pokemon. Tired after a long week of school, they fought and fought, even though they love each other and have been best friends for years.
In the end, no matter how many ideas for compromise you suggested, it became clear it would be best for them to call it a day, give each other a high-five goodbye, and go their separate ways until they were both ready to try again.
No one can say that swimming is absolutely better than Pokemon, or vice versa. Each friend had a particular perspective of the best thing to do, and neither could be swayed otherwise. That doesn’t mean either friend was “bad,” they just wanted different things.
Just like school friends, married couples experience situations in which each person has a different perspective on what is best, most interesting, most fun, etc. When these differences come up too often about too many important issues, parents sometimes need to go their separate ways. No one is to blame. No one did anything “bad.” It is, and it will be, OK.
During a moment when you are not upset with your ex, share this concept with your kids, using a specific example from a play date or peer-related situation of their own. Reinforce it should you find yourself in one of those unfortunate moments of frustration mentioned when this piece began.
“I am sorry I said that your mom doesn’t know what she is talking about. Your mom is a very smart woman. We just see this differently. We have a different perspective about it, just like you and your friend had a different perspective last week about what to play. We both love you and we are a team are your parents. We will talk it through and work it out.”
It is a healthy choice to spend your time, and your life, with people you enjoy and who enjoy you. It is also healthy to admit and apologize for times when you have acted or spoken unkindly out of anger. We could all use some help stepping back to gain greater perspective from time to time.
What gift you give your child when you start teaching this now.
A version of this article originally appeared on LiveThroughTheHeart.
Photo credit: Flickr/bSrwHD