It’s almost Valentine’s Day. Here is some holiday advice from our James Island divorce lawyers on giving your children special gifts when they are experiencing the divorce or separation of their parents.
Every holiday brings strain to children whose parents are divorced, going through a divorce, or just separated – no matter how long it has been since their parents have been together.
Father and/or Mother may now have a new spouse (stepfather or stepmother), a significant other, or just a new boyfriend or girlfriend. There may or may not be loving grandparents in the picture. Imagine the parameters of your own life, and consider the following, if you wish to give a very special gift to the child in your life, in one of these situations:
1) Allow your child to love his or her other parent.
Don’t make your child feel the need to hide that love, and refrain from passing judgment on his or her feelings. Regardless of the faults of the other parent, your child needs to love his other parent to achieve healthy adulthood and your child should not have to hide that feeling or be embarrassed by it.
2) Do not tell your child (or stepchild or grandchild) why he or she should not love his their other parent.
You will be surprised just how quickly your child will grow and how adeptly he or she will make their own judgments or conclusions about the other parent.
3) Do not speak ill of your child’s (or stepchild’s, or grandchild’s) other parent, either directly to your child OR within his or her hearing.
The only maxim that is always true in divorce or separation situations is that you risk everything if you act in this manner. Your child will always remember how you spoke of his “other half” and you will not be forgiven.
4) Encourage a positive relationship between your child and his/her other parent.
5) Don’t do these things:
a) Discuss business (such as cost of health care or uninsured payments, child support, etc.) in the presence of your child or where your child may overhear this.
Commonly, this takes place at places where the child is being exchanged between parents. If you have already done this, stop it right now.
b) Send messages to the other parent via your child.
This includes putting notes, bills or letters into lunch-boxes or backpacks. If you have already done this, stop it right now.
c) Listen to your child’s telephone conversations with his/her other parent, in any fashion.
If you have already done this, stop it right now.
d) Talk about your marital problems or issues or Family Court proceedings at public events, such as sports events, programs at school, or even carpool.
Your child may not be standing right there, but they will hear about it and they will be unforgiving (in this context, think of the sons of Jenny and Mark Sanford – not only did their father reveal his adultery on TV, their mother wrote a book about the whole nasty business. Is anyone in this scenario really thinking about the impact on the children?)
6) This Valentine’s Day, allow your child to pick out a special card for his or her other parent, or a small present, all without criticism or comment.
If money is an issue, allow your child to do some special chores to earn the money to make these purchases. Allow your child to express pride in what he or she is doing here.
7) Above all, resist the natural impulse to tell your child all about the wrongs your ex or soon-to-be ex committed during your marriage.
Don’t tell him the number of times ex forgot to get you something on Valentine’s Day, for instance.
8) Start over if you need to do so. It is never to late to make changes or corrections.
Get started right now. By the way, if your child is old enough for this conversation, apologize to him or her if you have interfered in something like buying a Valentine for Mom or Dad in the past, and let your child know you will do better in the future. Then follow through!
PS: In some families there are genuine issues of physical safety which may interfere with the best of intentions. Please exercise your judgment with care, and seek professional advice or assistance if you are uncertain.
Please be certain to call or email our James Island divorce lawyers if you have any additional questions on this topic or anything related to separation, divorce, or Family Court.