My Message to Friends of Divorced Parents
At a playdate the other day, my son learned he had not been invited to another friend’s birthday party.
Because he was going to be with his dad that day and the family knew it.
These friends don’t know my ex very well and apparently weren’t comfortable inviting him to the party.
The tears that followed ran deep. My kiddo wanted to know why. What had he done wrong? I knew why but had no truly helpful answer for him. The last thing I wanted to do was throw his dad under the bus for something he couldn’t help.
Divorce is uncomfortable for everyone
I get it, people. I get it. Divorce sucks.
It is uncomfortable for everyone involved – including friends and external family. Nobody wants to sit around making awkward small talk with the offending party who hurt their friend.
But children do not need to be the collateral damage that they often are. And many times, some of the damage they face is unintentionally inflicted by people outside the family who mean well and love them.
We divorce folks and professionals spend a lot of time talking about putting the kids first, being civil and even possibly friendly for sake of the children.
Keeping dirty laundry and adult business as far away from them as possible. We lean into our close adult community and therapist/coaching/legal professionals for support and tell our clients to do the same.
But what about the kids’ community?
Who supports them?
Not talking trash about their other parent in front of our kids, not fighting in front of them, this is only part of what keeps them healthy.
The other component involves our community, too.
It doesn’t necessarily take the help of a village to help children feel normal and whole after divorce. But it sure is easier when you have the help of the tribe!
Picture this: your good friend recently went through a terrible divorce.
Now, months later, you are at a soccer game, watching your child and theirs happily swarm the ball all over the field.
And who walks up?
Only your pal’s ex and his/her new love interest.
You know all the dirt on him/her, all the mud he/she dragged your friend through, all the heartache.
You want to be a good friend. So, you give them the cold shoulder. And you make a mental note of all the horrible things they do and say so you can spill the tea with your friend over a margarita later in the week. It’s the best way to show your support, right?
I know you want to protect your divorced friends and show support.
But their child is the person who suffers the most in this scenario.
And if you are truly a good friend, you won’t let your good friend’s child suffer.
You will say hello and make a little friendly banter with the ex and his/her new partner.
You will smile and wave goodbye at the end, when the kids see you so that your good friend’s kid – and by extension a child you love – won’t feel weird or bad about themselves and their family.
You see, when you give frosty glares and silence in solidarity with your pal, their kid witnesses their mom/dad being shunned. They see their parent and their parent’s partner being left in the dust.
Remember, our kids are 50% us and 50% their other parent.
So, when their parent is cast out, it often makes them feel cast out, too.
They don’t know what they did wrong.
Depending on their age, they don’t even know what IS wrong. But they can sense that something is very, very off, and that it has to do with their family. They learn to feel uncomfortable in groups, to feel uncomfortable being around their friends while with the “offending” parent.
Making children feel this way isn’t being a good friend. It is the opposite.
And it’s time we acknowledge that.
So, even if a friend seems pleased when their community snubs their ex, it is your job as a good friend to remind them that their kids are the ones who suffer and to let them know that your love for them is the reason why YOU won’t be behaving that way.
Single mom, Divorce & Co-parenting coach
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