By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC
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 talks about 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 her stepparents’ feelings” as she moved ahead into other chapters in her life.
Keep Post-Divorce Family Photos For Your Kids
She now wants 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 may feel a part of them is flawed, which creates much internal confusion.
Allow and encourage your children to keep their connection with their other parent – and with their past, unless they choose otherwise. If you’re a stepparent, 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.
Personal Photo-Based Storybook for Children of Divorce
That became the concept behind my own ebook, How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! In it I provide fill-in-the-blank templates to guide parents in creating a personal storybook with family photos and history as a great resource that gets parents in the right mind-set to break-the-news and move ahead with decisions in the best interest of their children.
The pre-planned storybook has two very important benefits. First, it provides a script for parents so when they read the book to their children at the time of the tough “break the news” divorce talk, they don’t forget any essential messages or overlook key points. Secondly, it gives your children a storybook about them and their family, which is hard to resist! It reminds them of the six key messages every child needs to hear. And it becomes a storybook they can re-read over again and again in the weeks and months ahead – reinforcing your love and commitment to them.
This becomes a most valuable tool at a time when you need all the resources available to you. Would any parent want anything other than that?
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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC, is a Divorce & Parenting Coach, Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! For timely tips, expert interviews, coaching services and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues visit //www.childcentereddivorce.com. To order her ebook, visit //www.howdoitellthekids.com.
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