What children wish divorced parents knew

I am a family mediator and child consultant and trained to listen to children. I help children to talk about their wishes and feelings.  Direct Child Consultation can take place if both parents agree and the children are about 10 or over, depending on maturity. Giving children a voice (not to be confused with allowing them to make decisions) can empower and help children so they know their feelings are important to their parents. Children often find it easier to speak to an impartial professional, as they can worry about hurting their parent’s feelings.  I often ask adult clients who have experienced their parent’s separation as a child, what they wish their parent’s had known at that time. Here are some of the most common answers, both from adults and children;

What children wish divorced parents knew

What do you wish your parents had known that you didn’t tell them?

1. I love you both and that won’t ever change.

The divorce doesn’t make me love either of you any less. Please don’t make me choose between you. I can’t. I need you both.

2. I don’t want to hear negative things about the other parent; it hurts me.

When you criticise each other, you make me feel insecure and anxious. Please don’t criticise each other to me, or let me hear you criticising each other to anyone else. I feel protective of you both. I feel torn. I am part of both of you.

3. Tell me the truth, don’t lie to me; but don’t tell me all the details.

If we are moving home, I want to know so I can prepare. I don’t like things being sprung on me. It makes me feel unimportant and an ‘after thought’. However, please don’t make me a shoulder to cry on or your confidant for the divorce. Talk to your friends or even a therapist about the divorce. Nobody wants to hear intimate private information about their parents’ marriage; even as an adult.

4. Please don’t argue when I can see or hear.

I heard a lot of arguments when you lived together. I thought you separated so that you could stop upsetting each other. It hurts me that you still argue. Can’t you be civil for my sake? You don’t have to be friends, but I do need you to talk to each other about me. When you do I feel safe. What will happen at my graduation or wedding? I need you to be in the same room without an atmosphere and to support me.

Please don’t use me as a messenger and then get cross if I forget a message or get it wrong. Please don’t use me as a middle man to find out information about what the other is doing. It makes me feel used and that you have an ulterior motive for spending time with me.

5. Don’t try and buy my affection.

I want to spend time with you because I love you. I value your time, not what you can buy me. I don’t always need or want expensive gifts and trips. They sometimes make me feel uncomfortable. I want you. Even if I am angry with you and our relationship needs work, expensive presents won’t help.

6. When I’m upset or angry it’s not always because of the separation.

Not everything is your fault, my other parent’s fault, or because of the separation. Sometimes I feel moody, upset or angry and that’s just normal for my age.

7. Don’t try and make me part of an immediate new family with your new partner.

Don’t introduce me to someone unless it’s serious. Give me time to get to know the other person on my terms. Don’t force the issue. Make sure I still get to spend plenty of time alone with you. I may resent him/her if they are always with us. I see less of you than I did before and I don’t want to share all of our time with your new partner, it makes me feel I don’t count.

8. It can be hard to go between two homes and two parents sometimes.

That’s not because I don’t want to see you both. I need time to adjust each time I go to and fro.  It’s new to me and can feel strange. It’s made so much easier if you both talk to each other and are polite when I go from one parent to the other. Walking away from one parent and towards another can make me feel anxious, especially when you won’t talk to each other or if you argue.

9. I need emotional permission to love you both.

I’m perceptive and pick up on nuances; so even if you don’t say you don’t want me to see my other parent, or that you are angry with them, I will still know. I worry about making you unhappy. When I don’t feel guilty about spending time with each parent, I feel safe and happy. Knowing it’s ok to mention them, makes me feel relaxed and secure.

10. Be there to listen when I need you, but don’t push me to talk about my feelings.

Listen to me and let me know you are there if I want to talk about my feelings. If I feel unable to talk to you about something, don’t pressure me. Let me know its ok to speak to another safe adult; including my other parent, a teacher, a family member or a family friend. Don’t make me feel disloyal for doing so. Sometimes I don’t tell you things as I don’t want to hurt you – I know you are having a tough time too.

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