Children — no matter what age, race, gender, or nationality — all want to be loved. Undoubtedly. Wholeheartedly. Steadfastly. And without conditions. Families today are different than they were in my parents' generation. The nuclear family unit does not look the same as it did in 1960 or even 1980. Blended families, single-parent families, families raised with two moms or two dads, or whatever the case may be, families are rapidly changing in context and definition. Divorce has been around for quite some time now, obviously, but with it more prevalent than ever, it's important to consider how divorce impacts a child. As a single parent, I think long and hard all too often about how I can make life work for my daughter and myself, thinking about how I can make her life happy without that nuclear family I thought she would be living in. The fact is divorce does not mean children will be miserable. In fact, living in two peaceful homes beats living in a miserable home, hands down. In my parents' generation and dare I say my own, children were often subjected to two arguing and unhappy parents without a way for the mother to feasibly leave and exist on her own, at least without severe difficulty. It is still hard to be a single parent today, but life has more opportunities for single parents than it did years ago. If divorce is a part of your child's current or future landscape, here are five things I can say with certainty that your child of divorce wants.
1. Your Child Wants Peace
Yes, children frequently imagine and hope that their parents will get back together, but more than anything, children want peace and harmony. Children don't want to live with arguing adults and they certainly don't want to deal with two arguing adults who divorced already yet can't make it work for their sake. Peace and happiness and quiet. Kids of divorce want that. That means even if you're divorcing a terrible person, you've got to protect the kids from being a part of that. It means turning the other cheek and doing the right thing. And yes, it's hard, sometimes painfully so, but it has to be done.
2. Your Child Wants Clarity
If there is a custody schedule or a change in the living situation, your child wants to be able to understand what that means for him or her. Your child wants clarity and structure to his or her life. This means outlining everything in a custody agreement and figuring out the tiniest nuances, like who can watch the children or who takes the kids for the Spring or Winter breaks. Let your child feel at ease understanding there is a plan, even if they don't always like what you and your former spouse have decided to do.
3. Your Child Wants No Drama
Even if you can't stand your ex or he/she can't stand you, don't mention it in front of the kids. We all understand what it is like when an ex burns you and you have to smile and keep it mum, but it's important you do. Kids of divorce more often than not feel as if they have to be go-betweens or in the middle. They don't want anyone to feel hurt and look to please both and you the other parent. It's a hard position to be in for the kids. Make it easier.
4. Your Child Wants to See You Both
If a parent is a deadbeat parent, there is nothing that can be done. You can't convince a parent to "parent," but many parents want to stay active in their children's lives. So even if you two live far apart or one of you works a very demanding schedule, find a way to tweak it so extra time can be made or so that parents can go out of their way to see the child, even if it's for dinner or a random weekend day. Children are never convenient and shouldn't be considered inconveniences. Just try to both make it work.
5. Your Child Wants Freedom to Love and to Be Loved
Your child wants the ability to freely love you both without feeling guilt or anger on the other parent's behalf. Your child wants to feel loved back by both parents. Children deserve this. No child should feel bad over expressing missing a parent or loving/enjoying time with a parent. As a mom, you should be glad the child is feeling safe and happy with the other parent. Imagine if it were the other way around. That would be so heartbreaking. There is more than enough room in a child's heart to love you and your former spouse, easily.