Last month we talked about how divorce can make our children grow up too fast. It was a good conversation about allowing our children to be children and not to expect too much from them just because there are more needs now. It is important not to make them feel overwhelmed as they are already going through a lot of feelings and changes themselves. We need to allow them to be children and to continue to be there for them. Whether they are 17 or 3, they do not need to be drawn into any of the conflict or be expected to take sides. They have every right to love both of their parents, no matter what they have or have not done. I hope that you found last months series helpful and you were challenged to be a better parent for your child of divorce.
This month is Part 4 of the 25 Things Children of Divorce Want Their Parents to Know.
As much as we want to help, we’re not your therapists.
Please don’t overshare.
Let’s start by defining what a therapist is. Webster defines a therapist as:
“A person skilled and trained in a particular kind of therapy”.
Now lets see what Webster says a child is. A child is:
“A young human being below the age of puberty.”
Nowhere in this definition does it say that your child is able to be your therapist or listening board. They are a young human who has not been skilled or trained. They are not designed to be there for you, either emotionally or physically. In complete contrast actually, YOU are supposed to be there for them both emotionally and physically. Why is it so easy for us to get these roles reversed? I think it is because we confuse our love and dependence on our children with the love and dependence we once had with our spouse. We need to constantly remind ourselves to keep this in check and put a very clear boundary between our relationships so that we don’t add additional stress onto the lives. They have enough to deal with. It is normal for them to worry about us so in order to allow them to grow and mature naturally it is out job to surround them safety and security.
This can be a very tricky thing. It takes being very aware of our actions and being honest with ourselves when we may be involving our children in situations that they truly do not need to know. We may think we are just being honest or we are lonely and need someone to talk to and even can fool ourselves into thinking they need to know. Well, I’m sorry to tell you, whatever it is, they DO NOT need to know. If it is important enough, they will find out themselves when they are ready. But it is not your job to decide when that time is. Every child is different and they process differently. In time, you will discover that it was not as important as you thought it was or that your child has figured things out on their own and are at an age where they can properly process it.
The truth of the matter is that we share because it makes us feel better. It makes us feel like we have a closer relationship with our children. It makes us feel like we have it all together. It makes us feel like someone cares. It makes us feel like we are the better person. It makes us feel more loved and secure. It allows us to use our children as our excuse to act or behave a certain way, as if by telling our children it gives us permission to do whatever we want. It gives us the feeling of a stamp of approval if they don’t protest. It even gives us the opportunity to use the kids as the reason they cannot go or do something with their other parent. We may even use the excuse that we are protecting them. In most situations we are not viewing the information in objective lenses. Are the children really in danger or is it our way to punish or lash out at our ex? This is a very tough question to answer but one we must evaluate every time we think we need to share something with our children. In most cases if we can just step back and pray about it or give it a day or two we will see things differently. I say all these things assuming that you will seek wise counsel and act appropriately if your children are truly in a dangerous situation.
As hard as this may be, I promise you the rewards will be ten fold. If you share too much your child will soon learn to resent you. So if you are serious about protecting your children and want to develop a long lasting relationship with them, you will be very careful what and how much you share with your children. If you need someone to talk to, which I fully encourage, I suggest you find a good counselor or therapist. They will give you great advice and will save you and your children a lot of heartache down the road. Please make sure to read my blog on counselors. They are a great asset to lean on at a time like this.
I want to add that if you have already overshared and have used your child as your therapist, it is not too late. We can be the perfect example of God’s love and forgiveness.
Until next month….watch what you say. There are two ears and only one mouth. It’s amazing what damage that one mouth can do.