What Children Want Their Divorced Parents to Know

Dear Mom and Dad,

I €™m really sorry that you are getting a divorce, and I know that you both are hurting. But don't forget that this isn't an easy time for any of us; my heart aches, too. I've thought of a hundred questions you need to answer for me: Who should I live with? How do I grieve? Will we have to move? And I've thought of just as many things I'd like to tell you.

If we could sit down and talk about how you could help me adjust to these new circumstances, here's what I'd say:

  1. Don €™t insult each other when I €™m around. When I start dating, I €™ll need to know that I can relate to the opposite sex. If you are mean to each other, I might start thinking that having a stable relationship never mind a lifelong marriage is an impossible feat. Don €™t worry; I can form my own opinions about both of you without your help.
  2. Tell me how my life will change. Imagine how you would feel if someone packed up your belongings, moved you to another home and didn €™t explain why. Let me know what to expect about future living arrangements, visitations, chores, school and friends.
  3. Don €™t stick me in the middle of the conflict. Dad, when I'm at your house, I get uncomfortable when you start asking lots of questions about life at Mom's house. Instead of asking me, find out for yourself! Mom, don €™t make me deliver messages for Dad. That €™s your job.
  4. Reassure me that the divorce is not my fault. I might even respond by saying, "I know it isn't my fault." Tell me I'm not to blame anyway. Say it several times, especially during the first few years because I might forget.
  5. Don €™t fight with each other when I am around. This makes me feel unsafe and afraid. If you feel angry when you meet, show some self-control, and don't argue where I can hear. My heart is fragile right now, so protect it by being kind to one another.
  6. If you think about remarrying, let me know and include me in on the plans. Also, please don €™t play favorites. It €™s important that I feel like I belong to your new family.
  7. Talk to me about my feelings. I need to know it €™s normal to feel anger, sadness or fear. Show patience when I am hurting, and explain healthy ways to deal with my emotions, like punch a pillow or talk to a school counselor, a church friend, teacher, neighbor or grandparent. Of course, I might not want to talk about the divorce. That's okay. Maybe I can tell you how I feel in other ways, like drawing pictures.
  8. Reassure me that you won't abandon me. I love you both and I never want to lose you. I need to know that you still love me and will always stay around for me, even though we aren €™t going to live in the same house.
  9. Watch for signs of depression. If you see I €™m excessively moody or sad, that may signal depression. Other signs include insomnia or hypersomnia (oversleeping), loss of concentration, cutting or recurring thoughts of suicide. If you see these or any other signs of depression, I may need help from a licensed counselor.
  10. Set boundaries with me. If you €™re the parent who I visit on weekends and holidays, you might feel like giving me everything I want. Don't give in to this temptation! I need boundaries more than ever to feel secure. When we €™re together, make sure I know the rules. This makes me feel safe and helps me deal with the pain I feel.
  11. If you €™re the parent I don €™t live with regularly, call me on the days when we are not together. I like talking to you. Even though I might seem uninterested, take the time to call and check in with me. This makes me feel special.
  12. Don €™t make promises to me unless you intend to keep them. This will rebuild my trust in you. If you mess up and you don't keep a promise, just apologize.
  13. Keep my normal routine. Please keep my life unchanged as much as possible. I still want to visit Grandma and Grandpa and hang out with friends.

Remember, what I need most is your love and understanding.

All my love,

Your son or daughter

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