I read a poignant comment on a blog recently written by a married mother of three. She was a child of divorce whose father moved out of the home when she was four. She talks about having very few pictures of herself as a child and only one of her mother and father together. Her grandfather found and gave her the photo just a few years ago. She framed it and has proudly displayed it in her home for her own children to see.
She explains how special that one photo of her with Mom and Dad is to her. It shows a little girl sitting happily on a lawn with her “real” family – before the divorce.
This woman grieves that she has no other photographs of her father and so few pictures of her childhood. She assumes that her mother hid or destroyed all other photos, “possibly to protect my stepparents’ feelings” as she moved on into other chapters in her life.
She goes on to send a message to all divorced parents who are transitioning into blended families. She stresses the importance of keeping previous family photographs to give to your children at the appropriate time – and not throwing them away. She implores people who are marrying men or women with children to “be the grownup” and acknowledge that children of divorce have other relationships that are meaningful and important to them.
Having pictures, gifts and other reminders of the non-custodial parent is very important to your children. We must never forget the connection and allegiance children innately feel toward both of their parents. When one parent is dismissed, put down or disrespected by the other parent, a part of your child is hurt as a result. They also feel that a part of themselves is flawed which creates much internal confusion.
Allow your children to keep their connection with their other parent – and with their past, unless they choose otherwise. If you’re a step-parent, don’t try to replace the birth Mom or Dad. There is room in a child’s heart to embrace and love you, as well, if you earn their trust and respect. You can’t demand or force it.
The woman’s blog post ends by asking us to imagine how we would feel if someone came into our family and discarded all the photos of Mom and Dad together. If we could just put ourselves into our children’s shoes on a regular basis we would avoid so many errors in parenting, and so many psychological scars.
This woman speaks for millions of children of divorce and her message needs to be heard. It’s also another validation for the concept of creating a family storybook when telling your children about the divorce. Showing the kids photos of the family together, during happier times in the past, reminds them that life moves in cycles and there will be good times ahead. It also shows them that they came from love and that love still exists for them – even if Mom and Dad are no longer living together.
I was particularly interested in this article because my internationally-acclaimed ebook, How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! is based on family photos, as well. The book provides fill-in-the-blank templates that guide parents in creating a valuable storybook using family photos and history. This becomes a great resource tool that puts parents in the right mind-set to break-the-news and move ahead with decisions in the best interest of their children. Even if you’re long past the actual divorce, looking through family photo albums can spark conversation and sincere communication between you and your children.
Yes, it might bring up some tears and sadness, but talking about those feelings can be healing for everyone. You can also start new photo albums sharing happy times in the present so you can look back upon this chapter in your lives with smiles in the months and years to come. Isn’t this what you want for your family?
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Rosalind Sedacca, CCT, is a Divorce & Parenting Mentor and founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network. She is also the author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! For free articles, her ezine, couching services and other valuable resources about divorce and parenting issues visit //www.childcentereddivorce.com. To order her ebook, visit //www.howdoitellthekids.com.