When I was six years old, my parents divorced. My two older brothers and I spent the rest of our childhoods living with Mom and visiting Dad on the weekends. Without question, their divorce deeply impacted all of us. But as I reflect on my mom’s approach to single parenting, I can pinpoint several ways her wise choices paved that bumpy road so the ride was not as harsh as it could have been.
1. Create an environment of emotional security.
Like most single parents, my mom had to work full-time, sometimes at odd hours, to support our family. Yet, for all the time I spent in my mother’s absence, I never felt she was far away. She encouraged me to call her at work. When she tucked me in at night, she took her time. She read books with me, cheered at my weekend soccer games, and listened when I needed to talk. My mom couldn’t give me all her time, but by giving me all the time she could, she gave me strength to navigate the lonely stretches in between.
2. Protect your children from an adult world.
I am sure my parents had their squabbles; I am sure my mom sometimes felt lonely, overwhelmed, or financially stretched. Thankfully, she did not share these burdens with me. It is not a child’s job to be a parent’s friend, confidant, or counselor. My mom sought support when she needed it, but never at our expense. This allowed my brothers and me to remain relatively unburdened by the worries of her adult life.
3. Be respectful of your ex-spouse.
For all the years my parents remained in each other’s lives solely because of us kids, they consistently treated each other with respect. They each recognized the value of the other as a parent and they esteemed each other because of it. Sometimes, it was even confusing for me to reconcile their amicability with their divorced status, but I appreciate how they put our needs ahead of their own petty grievances. It was an impressive example of selflessness in action.
4. Allow whatever questions may come.
When I became an adult, I had many questions about my parents’ divorce. I asked my mom about them and she answered me candidly. She recognized that her divorce was an impacting event for me—one that required new evaluation as I navigated my adult years. Some of my questions may have caused pain or regret, but she didn’t chastise me or make excuses. She simply shared her experience, all the while respecting that her choices had profound implications for me.
What have you done to try to help your child heal after your divorce?