Talking to your child about divorce isn’t easy, but there’s something I want to share that I think is very helpful and beneficial.
We all have a story about how we met and fell in love with our ex’s. I call it a “Once upon a time” story. If you are a woman, you remember the exact day, the place, who you were with, where you were in your life at the time, and even what you were wearing. The details of that first meeting never fade.
So, I don’t care how much you hate him now, I don’t care what he did to you during and/or after the marriage, and I don’t even care if he cheated on you. Well, I care, of course, but what I’m saying it, regardless of how or why things ended, and what your relationship is with him now, one thing is certain. You have a “Once upon a time story” with him that will always mean something to you, whether you want it to or not.
You may not want to think about it because it’s too painful. You may want to block it out because he turned out to be a completely different person than you thought he was. It may disgust you to recall the memories of those passionate kisses that took your breath away, only to see him now and be completely repulsed to the point you might throw up.
But what I’m trying to say is, let yourself remember the story, and here’s why. Don’t get mad, but if you haven’t done this already, I think you should tell it to your kids. In fact, I think you should tell it to your kids over and over and over again. Why? Because I did that and it made my daughter so happy, it was beautiful to see.
One night, she was lying in bed, and she asked me to tell her a story. I’m not really sure what made me choose my “Once upon a time” story with my ex, but I began telling her about the first time her dad and I met, and I went into all the funny details about meeting him and what I was feeling, and how he asked me out, and even the first time we ever kissed.
Telling that story to my daughter didn’t make me upset or angry about the way things are now. What it did was bring me back to a time in my life with him when we were truly happy and in love. And that was nice.
Even more importantly, it made my daughter so happy, I almost cried. I could see the excitement and anticipation on her little face, I could see her hopeful expression, the joy in her eyes that her parents really did love each other at one time. She wanted to hear the story over and over again, and I’ve probably told it to her about 100 times since.
I’m not a psychiatrist or therapist, but what I can tell you as a mother is, kids want to hear that their parents were once in love, and that they loved each other enough to actually have babies together. They want and need to hear that there was a time their parents connected and acted completely differently than they do now. I think it makes them feel more loved.
Don’t you think kids get tired of seeing their divorced parents at odds? Even if you never argue in front of your kids, there’s a feeling there that they get. Every time you don’t say hello to each other, every time you use that formal tone when you are telling your ex something, or when he uses that tone with you.
I am constantly watching my kids’ faces when my ex and I are in the same room, at school and sporting events. They are absorbing everything, including the hostility that is so apparently in the air. That is probably why I spent the first 5 years of my divorce trying to be friends with my ex, to no avail.
So, in sitting your kids down and telling them your “Once upon a time” story, they will get a sense of that love between the two of you that’s always missing now.
When they hear that you adored your ex’s beautiful eyes, it will make them think THEY have those beautiful eyes, too. And when they hear that your ex said he loved your laugh, they will realize that THEY love your laugh, too. And when they hear that you and your ex once stayed up all night talking, they’ll understand more why they were born.
If you were a kid, wouldn’t it mean everything to you to hear those things? Wouldn’t it be a nice, refreshing break from the constant animosity that sadly enough is part of their everyday lives?
So, please, put your current feelings aside, and tell your kids your “Once Upon a Time” story, and I promise you, if you can tell it over and over again, and compartmentalize that from what you feel today, you will have a better chance of living happily ever after, and so will your kids.