What Kids Want their Parents to Know About Divorce
Divorce sucks. Everything about it, and everything it entails. When kids are involved, divorce intensifies to new measures, representing one primary factor: CHANGE.
Change is something we dread, fear or even despise.
Adults expect a logistical, geographical, financial, monetary, relational, and even behavioral change when it comes to divorce. They have somewhat of an idea that a huge shift is certainly going to transpire in their life but not the magnitude of the changes to come. They try to “buckle up” for the bumpy road ahead and many assure themselves “it will be worth it” along with justifications and precise reasons for their decisions. Most of my clients who have gone through divorce will share with me, “I wish I had of done many things differently” mostly pertaining to their children.
In my experience dealing with children and divorce, kids immediately jump to one thought and question, “What about me?”. What kids have known to be true in their live has now become extremely complicated…Encompassing many different layers of their life that have been turned upside down.
Kids today, more than likely, know at least one friend, neighbor, or family member who has gone through a divorce. They have some idea “things will change” but they can’t comprehend the magnitude of the change no matter how much their parents, counselor, or family member have tried to “get them ready” for a separation or divorce. What I do know to be true, when parents going through a divorce focus on being amical, open-minded, cooperative, and leave their egos out of it, kids will go through the transition of divorce much easier.
If I had to narrow down over 30 years of working with hundreds of kids, and clarify what they want, it would be, “TO BE HEARD”, period.
The desire to be heard for a child is amplified while experiencing their parent’s separation, divorce, or post-divorce. Tragically, kids are normally thrown in the middle of two people who once professed to have loved one another, and have now, “changing their minds” morphing into bitter enemies.
With respect to the kids I have seen over the years, the following is a list of many kids’ thoughts, feelings, comments, and suggestions regarding separation, divorce, and post-divorce:
- Let me take my things from one house to the others house instead of being selfish and saying, “I bought that it stays here”. You look greedy and selfish and I miss out with having my stuff.
- Don’t make fun of the presents, gifts or stuff the other parent gives me. If you are jealous, just say that you are jealous. If you think it is junk, be quiet…it isn’t your gift anyway and I may like it. I am probably proud of it anyway because they gave it to me.
- Don’t not go to an event, game, or activity because the other parent is there. When you don’t go, you look childish and it embarrasses me. I want both parents there, not two little kids. And don’t give each other “Go to ___” looks and talk crap about each other. You should be there to watch me.
- Stop being so jealous of my step-parent. Stop making it about them. You look jealous and hateful and stupid. Let them do things for me and love me because it only helps me. You are divorced from my mom/dad so get over it and let her/him be happy.
- Stop being so mean (and saying bad things) about my other parents’ girlfriend/boyfriend. If you don’t care about my other parent anymore, why do you care who they are with?
- You two got a divorce, not me. Stop talking crap about the other parent to me, your friends, and our family. You act like a teenager when you do.
- Know that I love you both and saying hateful things about the other one only makes me see how mean you are. You are the one who used to love them, so it makes me think you are a bad choice maker about everything.
- I don’t want to hear the fights about the house, the stuff in the house, and who is going to get it. The furniture, house, dishes, pictures, lake house, nanny’s table, and expensive artwork! I don’t care. You should be madder about losing our family than the stuff you want.
- What is going to happen to me? I need to get to school and my soccer and you both are too worried about who gets the house and who wins in all of this.
- I am scared you will give up on me like you did the family. You probably will.
- Your girlfriend/boyfriend should not discipline me. They are not my parent. You are my parent and should know what needs to be done. Tell them to stop.
- I don’t want to meet your new boyfriend/girlfriend and I sure don’t want to be forced to spend time with them. Just because you like them doesn’t mean I will. It takes time.
- I don’t trust anyone now. You both say stuff that I don’t want to hear. I don’t ever want to get married.
- I love my step-mom/step-dad. She/he loves me and is better to me than you are.
- There is a tornado in my tummy when you and dad are around each other.
- Your girlfriend/boyfriend has replaced me. You are a trader.
- Don’t have or let your girlfriend/boyfriend take me places where you should be taking me or picking me up until I ask for them to do it.
- Don’t have a girlfriend who looks or acts like a teenager. You should be embarrassed. You are old.
- Stop making decisions about visitation and what I do to the other parent’s house. I am not the family dog and I need to be involved in making decisions. There are times I have something to do at one house and it doesn’t mean I hate you and don’t want to see you. It means I am a kid and have a kid’s life.
- I want to spend time with you, not your girlfriend/boyfriend or new family all the time. I like hanging out with you like we used to.
- I cry in my room at night when I hear you yelling on the phone because you are yelling at my daddy.
- Give me time to like your new girlfriend/boyfriend it will probably take a long time.
- I hate it when you compete between the two of you for my time. I hate it even more when you take things so personally when I am busy or can’t talk. I want the freedom to call you and see you without the two of you arguing over the time spent. You act like spoiled brats.
- When you used your failed marriage as an example of “how men/women are” it only makes you look like you were stupid with your choices, so stop talking junk about the opposite sex.
- Don’t “just go get married” to someone else and think that is the right thing to do. It is not. You suck at marriage. You are not in love anyway.
- Don’t forget me. I am still here.
- My step-mom/step-dad and I don’t like each other, and you can’t force us to like each other, much less love each other.
- Your “new friend” is not my friend. Just because you like them, doesn’t mean I will. I may not be ready to spend time with them. Don’t think I am stupid. They are not just a “friend” anyway.
- When I am mad at the other parent for something, don’t start bashing them and don’t call them and try to take up for me. When you do, the two of you start fighting and I don’t want to be in the middle. You look stupid anyway fighting over something about me.
- When the rules and consequences are different at each house, it makes it horrible on me. I can’t depend on what the rules really are and what is expected of me. I feel like one of you are trying to be my friend to get back at the other parent. Stop changing or making easier rules so I will like you better.
- When you say you “have a date or plans” and ask mom/dad to keep me, I don’t feel like I am as important as your date or plans. If you ask mom, do it when I am not around. Don’t pawn me off so you can go party. Can’t you wait until you don’t have me?
- When you have your girlfriend/boyfriend spend the night and then tell me not to have sex and you want me to respect you, Well, I don’t. It’s gross anyway.
- Get over yourself and stop making this all about what the other parent did to you. Get over it and move on. If anyone is hurt by this, it is me and you make it all about you and your loss. I am the one who keeps losing because I have two parents who can’t get along.
- Be strong for me. Let me know you both have my back and will do anything for me together. Be a team with me. I still need both of you and want to feel safe.
- Stop telling me I am “just like your mom/dad” because she/he is a loser and when you say that it scares me that I might really be.
- Get and have friends. I hate being your everything. Back off me. I am growing up. I will be gone someday, and you will be alone and then you will blame me for leaving you like dad did.
- Support the other parent in their decisions when I am with them. Trust that they are making the right decisions. If they aren’t, don’t tell them in front of me. Trust that I know how to handle stuff over there and you don ‘t need cause a fight with the other parent.
- When you cry all the time it makes me feel like it is my fault you are crying.
- Be strong and don’t be weak because you look really pitiful and it is embarrassing.
- Stop feeling guilty and blaming yourself. I worry about you. I don’t want you to be alone. I want you to move on and get a life. I want you to be happy, so you won’t be up my ass now that I am in college.
- You and mom/dad need to trust yourselves. You have raised a good kid and you need to recognize it. I don’t have the issues you think I do because the two of you divorced. I am fine.