June is almost over and I feel like it hasn’t even started yet. There are days that seem to last forever and then there are times when months just fly by. If you have been following along with my monthly topical posts you would know I am on #3 of the 25 Things Children of Divorce Want Their Parents to Know. And #3 is:

Divorce forces us to grow up too fast.

If you think about your childhood most of us would do anything to go back to being a kid again. Living the carefree life. Having your mom and dad take care of everything. Being able to come home from school and run to your friend’s house to play until suppertime. Not a care in the world. All you did was eat, sleep and play.

I remember literally spending hours upon hours on the phone playing jacks with my best friend. The only thing I had to worry about was how far the phone cord would reach. (I think I just aged myself. LOL) We would laugh, share stories, plan our next outing, tell each other what we ate for supper, who we had a crush on that day, which girlfriends were hanging out with who, you know; silly girl stuff. But looking back on it now, those were some of the best days of my life. So simple. Not a care in the world, except for how many jacks I could pick up without missing the ball.

I take that experience and flash forward 20 years and think how different life was for my kids.  At age 4 and 6 when they should have just been silly kids, their biggest concern was why mommy and daddy didn’t live together anymore and what to pack for whomever’ s house they would be at tomorrow. It just breaks my heart to think about it. This is not the life I dreamed for my children. No parent does.

So how can we keep our children’s worlds simple and protect their care free spirit despite living in 2 separate homes? It may seem impossible but I’m here to tell you it is not. Below are some simple easy suggestions to help:

  • Post a calendar on the refrigerator indicating the schedule so they never have to question whose house they will be at when. Put one in their back pack as well so they have it with them wherever they go.
  • Try to make their schedule between homes as consistent as possible. Try not to do too many last minute changes. Try to stick to the schedule to the best of your ability.
  • When planning out parenting time try to group days together. It is hard enough to bounce back and forth between two homes but to do it every other day gets to be too much and adds to a feeling of instability.
  • Fiercely protect their “play time”. Allow your children time to play, explore and experience the simple things in life. Try not overschedule them so they don’t have any down time to just enjoy life. Also make sure they are playing with kids their age. Constantly being around kids older than them encourages them to grow up faster than they are ready to.
  • Get to know their friends and make sure your home is open to entertain their friends. Be involved by making time for them to just hang out with their friends to laugh and be normal. Make popcorn, rent a movie, bring out the squirt guns. Just encourage them to be silly.
  • Don’t expect them to carry messages for you to their other parent. Those conversations are not theirs to have. Allow them to freely love their other parent without any involvement from you. That is their relationship now, let them define it and enjoy it.
  • Be careful what you say when your children are around. Often times their ears pick up on things that are not necessary and their eyes see more than they need to see. Stay tuned to what they may hear and see at all times.
  • Try not to expect them to be perfect. They are just kids and living in two separate homes is confusing at times. If they should forget something or lose something please try to be understanding. It’s hard to keep track of your things when you’re constantly on the move.
  • Fill your home with laughter. Going through a divorce is heavy. Try to leave those feelings for adult time and focus your time on kid stuff when your children are with you. Have fun. Be silly at times. Everything doesn’t always have to be so serious.
  • Don’t drag your kids into your relationship issues. They don’t need to know and they don’t want to know. Just let them think life is good and let life unfold for them as they mature. Don’t try to put them in a world that is too much for them to handle. We grew up slowly, let them grow up naturally, not because you forced them to handle your issues too.
  • Make sure you always give them age appropriate responsibilities as they earn them. Never expect them to do things or be responsible for things before they are ready. Let them learn as they grow, not grow as they learn.

When you became a parent God gave you the responsibility to raise your children to the best of your ability. Don’t take the easy street. Give your children what they deserve; a childhood they can look back on and say it was the best days of their life. Being a family of divorce does make this harder, but it is not impossible. If you keep your focus on life through your children’s eyes you are sure to do just fine.

Until next month…you are only as old as you think you are.