Are your children worried about expressing their love for their other parent? When they talk about their other parent in ‘rose-colored’ terms do you worry that they will only be disappointed and heartbroken (maybe like yourself) once they learn the truth? Sometimes a little fantasy is okay for kids to feel good about themselves. At some stages of development, it’s more important for kids to feel loved by both parents and believe that they came from two good people than to know the adult ‘truth’. Allowing your child to be open and honest about all of their feelings is the best way to know what is going on in their heads and be able to support and protect them.
Exchanges can be a difficult time for parents and kids. Parents begin to anticipate the worst and dread having contact with their Ex. Kids have to prepare to say goodbye to one parent and switch homes. When conflict arises, things get much worse real fast for both adults and children. But this is a time of reunion! A time of stability for your kids: a reinforcement of the parent-child bond that survives beyond your adult romantic relationship. This is about your kids, getting to be with them, and making them happy. When your thoughts start to be all about your Ex, refocus on your kids!
Kids who have parents in two homes are always saying goodbye to someone and hello to someone else. They have to balance between being sad to leave one parent and being happy to see the other. Imagine only being able to see one of your children at a given time and always having to choose which one you’ll share different experiences with. Transitions are tough, and you’ll see the stress in your child’s behavior, regardless of their age. Be patient, be kind, be supportive. This was not their choice and everyone needs a little extra help through this difficult time.
Kids need to be able to focus on themselves in order to grow up to be healthy, happy and productive humans. If they have to worry about adult relationships or divorce, it’s just too much for their brains and affects their development. Children of ALL ages need to just be kids, regardless of how their family is structured. No matter what has happened between you and your Ex, your relationship with your child is never ending and keeping it separate and apart from conflict will help your kids grow up to be well adjusted adults.