One of the hardest parts of childhood has to be that first time away from home at an overnight summer camp. For many children, it’s the longest time they have ever been away from their parents at one time, or maybe ever. It is one of those instances of childhood of incredible growth and the child that comes home a week later is sometimes much more matured than the child who left just a week earlier.
For the child, they spend that time away cataloging the things they’re going to tell Mom and Dad when they get home. At first, it’s because they can’t stop thinking about Mom and Dad and how much they miss them. Before long (hopefully), it’s changed to all of the excitement of what they’ve done apart from their parents and wanting to share it. And for Mom and Dad, they spend the car ride home hanging on each sentence, excited to hear about that new friend or that new experience that their child had.
Sounds pretty great, right? Now let’s change that up and instead your child just came to your house after a week at Dad’s house (you’re divorced, by the way). Your child cannot wait to tell you about their week at Dad’s: what they had for dinner, who they played with, what movie they watched, what they did after school. And your response?
Often times in the world of divorced parents, the responses aren’t about the child’s experience, but some criticism about the other parent. Even something that on its face sounds benign (“I wish Dad had told me about that first”) is literally a pin prick to your child’s balloon of excitement. You aren’t listening to what they experienced, but instead overriding their feelings about something that you weren’t even a part of with your own.
The greatest gift you can give your child after a divorce is to quell any doubt they have about how you’ll react to hearing about life at the other parent’s house. How great would it be if your children don’t have to pause before telling you about their days and weeks because they know you might be upset by hearing about the other parent? How liberating is it for your child to know they can share unabashedly about the excitement of growing up without fear of a frown and a furrowed forehead? That they don’t have to filter their joy? If children are equal parts each of their parents, how great for them to know that both parts them are valued and loved by you? If you put your focus on this, even if the other parent doesn’t (and probably particularly if they don’t), you will have a relationship with your child that only deepens and becomes even more rewarding as a result. I guarantee it.