What Your Kids REALLY Wish You Knew About Having Divorced Parents

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Family, Heartbreak

"If at all possible, I want equal time with both parents."

One of my biggest concerns when I got divorced, like most parents, was, "What will it do to my kids?".

I talked to many kids from divorced homes and asked them, "What do you wish your parents knew about divorce?"

The kids have been very generous with their answers and had surprisingly similar advice.

When getting divorced, both kids and parents may feel that no one has been in this much pain or chaos and that they "will never feel good again".

Life does get better and there are things that you can do to help your kids through the transition. A couple of the kids asked me if I could share their advice with their parents because they weren't sure how to bring it up.

Kids and divorce are not easy topics to talk about. If you are divorced or thinking about divorce this is probably what your kids want you to know:

1. We'd love to have a predictable parenting schedule.

There are a variety of opinions from kids about what type of schedule is best.

Some kids like to switch often so that they never go more than two or three days without seeing each parent. Other kids prefer to spend a week at a time with each parent so they do not have to move their stuff back and forth so often.

If this seems like it's too long without seeing your child, one option is to have dinner together one night during the other parent's week. If you do this, make it part of the schedule so everyone knows what to expect and the kids know when they will see the parent they are not living with that week.

Other thoughts about schedules included:

  • "If at all possible, I want equal time with both parents."
  • "Schedule stuff ahead of time and let the other parent know, or it won’t happen. I don't like missing out because one of my parents did not let the other parent know soon enough, that there was a trip or some other fun thing he/she wanted me to be able to do."
  • "I was afraid I would lose one of my parents. It helped to know when I would see them next."
  • "Some of my friends spend the summer at their dad’s and go all summer without seeing their friends. That is really hard and it would be better if they could have some time with friends in the summer too. Even a week or two would be helpful."

Since there is such a variety of opinions on scheduling parenting time, ask your kids what they think would work and evaluate it after a few weeks.

2. Maintain your connection with us even when you're not physically present.


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Calls to the other parent and moving a favorite toy, stuffed animal, or blanket were common rituals that eased the anxiety of separation and moving between houses.

  • "My two homes are very different. It helps to have something that is the same. For me, I touch base to talk about my day or say goodnight to the parent who I am not with."
  • "When I was younger it helped that I had my favorite stuffed animal at both places. It went back and forth in my backpack."
  • "It helped to have something that reminded me of Dad at Mom’s house and something that reminded me of Mom at Dad’s house."

A picture of the child and parent can work for this.

3. It's hard to keep track of our stuff. 

"Make sure you keep track of where your clothes are. Sometimes I end up with no jeans at one parent’s house and all of my jeans at the other parent’s house. It helps to have a few extra clothes so that doesn’t happen. I know it seems this is impossible, but it happens," was one comment.

Keeping track of clothes was a common concern with kids who live in two places. Another thing that eases the anxiety about this are parents who are flexible and live close enough to each other that kids can stop at the other house to get things when needed.

4. I'm hurt and afraid.


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Just as parents are often afraid they will lose their children to the other parent, kids are afraid they will lose one or both parents. Many kids have friends who were abandoned by a parent after divorce.

You can address this fear by assuring them that even though you are divorcing, both parents will always be there for the child. Keep your word on this. Having a child is a lifelong commitment.

  • "Your kids are hurting more than they let on. They are not telling you everything because they do not want you to feel bad."
  • "When my mom had a new baby, I was afraid my step-dad wouldn’t love me anymore because now he had his own kid."
  • "I was afraid one parent would think I was too much trouble and just tell the other parent he/she could just keep me."

5. Don’t fight with my other parent. 

Some parents are so angry that they try to punish their ex-partner by blocking contact with the children. Unless the other parent is abusive or neglectful, the daggers being thrown at the other parent are going through the children.

A regular schedule or the ability to call the other parent also helps with knowing both parents will be there for the child.

  • "Try not to be mad at each other. Do not fight in front of us; that is the worst. Do not talk bad about the other parent. I love both of my parents and it makes me feel bad to hear someone talk bad about them, especially the other parent."
  • "Do not try and buy your kid. It makes the other parent look bad. It causes more conflict and it makes kids materialistic. Some of my friends’ parents do this and it is just not good. I am glad my parents did not do this. I feel lucky for that."

6. When you meet someone new, take it slow. 


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  • "Consider our feelings and give us some time to get used to a new person."
  • "I hated seeing a new woman in my house doing things my mom used to do."
  • "Do not push a new person on your kids. In time they will probably warm up to the new person. I did."
  • "If kids have a concern about a step-parent, listen to them; do not brush their concern away. They may see something you do not because you are in love."

7. I'll be OK.

Several kids stressed this idea as the most important thing that they wanted their parents to know: Kids will be OK after a divorce. It is incredibly hard, but they will be OK. They may even discover a thing or two they like.

  • "I thought it was the end of the world, but it turned out for the better. My parents are so much happier and that is better for me."
  • "I thought it would be worse, but my life got better when my parents divorced. I had two happy homes instead of one unhappy one."
  • "I like that I get to celebrate birthdays and holidays twice."

No one grows up planning to get divorced or marries thinking, "Oh, if this does not work out I will just get divorced."

The most common thing I hear when people are in the process of divorce is, "I never thought it would happen to me."

Divorce is incredibly painful, even in the best of situations. It destroys the world as both adults and kids know it. But there will be a new day. You will heal and life can be even better than before.

If you are raising a kid with two homes, ask them what advice would they give to other parents who are divorcing? Did you hear something you did not know in the kid’s advice?

Tamara Mason is a psychotherapist who empowers you in overcoming anxiety, depression and relationship issues. To get more helpful tips sign up at Parenting 2 Home Kids.

This article was originally published at parenting2homekids.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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