The best gift anyone can give a child, is a childhood. Shield them from adult discussions about custody agreements, child support and legal proceedings. Don't allow them to worry or feel sorry for you if it's not your weekend or holiday. Support their fundamental need to love all of their parents and grandparents. Divorce is a grown up decision and all kids have the right to be children.
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Let kids be kids. Divorced parents need to remember that they are parents to their children, not their buddy, not their gossip partner, and certainly not their equal. Children of divorce often feel pressure, especially during the holiday season, to hide their excitement from the parent that doesn’t get to be with them that day. They often show signs of disappointment and sadness to that parent, and may even admit they wish they could be with them instead. While there may be some truth in that (what child doesn’t wish they could be with both their parents at the same time?), more often than not these “confessions” are a desperate attempt by the child to gain approval from their parent, and earn ‘brownie points’ for acting as if they love them ‘more’.
When kids hear discussions of anger and disappointment, they feel helpless. They are little, what can they possibly do? Kids of divorce who are exposed to adult conversations that pit one parent against the other grow up adopting that theory, and eventually learn to join in on that no-win conversation. When their emotionally unstable parent drags them into their inner turmoil, the pressure a child can feel is incredible. In essence, the roles become reversed. The parent becomes the sad, whimpering child, and the child becomes the parent who is responsible to kiss their boo-boo and make them feel better. It is incredibly sad to see, and it wreaks havoc on a child’s mental well-being.
Instead, give your child permission to feel the excitement in their heart and encourage them to enjoy the time with their other parent. Kids are only kids once, keep their childhood drama free and don’t only tell them, but show them you support them in loving their other parent. Be mindful of your tone of voice and facial expressions, they are watching your every move and will pick up on even your non-verbal cues on how you really feel about a situation. They need you to be okay with them having fun without you, and making happy memories in their other home. The most beautiful gift you can give a child with two homes is permission. Permission to love, permission to laugh, permission to thrive in each family.
As time goes on, I hope more and more divorcees are able to shield their children from adult issues, and give them a warm and cozy childhood. If you let an eye-roll or sigh of frustration slip out, don’t fret. Every day is a chance to show your children your acceptance of their divided love. They may not show it, but inside they will breathe a huge sigh of relief at your ability to be an adult and let them be the child. They didn’t ask for divorced parents, don’t ask them to pick sides. Let them love, and most of all, let them be little.