For many people going through divorce one of the hardest questions to handle from their child is one about why you and your ex don't get back together. After everything you've been through, you're left wondering, "Why does my child think we'll reconcile?"
I recently saw the summer movie “Chef” starring Jon Favreau and Sofia Vergara in the lead characters of a chef and his ex wife. I won’t give the whole movie away but their son, played by Emjay Anthony wants them to reconcile and in true Hollywood fashion, they do.
Actor Jon Favreau also wrote Chef and I wish he’d come up with another ending … maybe one that showed mom and dad in a respectful, successful co-parenting relationship but no … he had to resort to the fairy-tale, happy ever-after ending. Too bad.
Since the movie is R-rated, presumably for the liberal use of the F word, you likely won’t be taking your young kids to see this but nevertheless you’re still going to need to be prepared for your child suggesting that you and your ex should let bygones be bygones and get back together.
So how do you deal with the child who wants you to reconcile?
1. Understand That Your Child Is Grieving:
Sure, you lost your partner, your marriage and your dreams but you’re not the only one who’s grieving. You’re child has suffered a loss too. They’ve lost their family unit and their life as they knew it. They could be in the denial stage of grief and not wanting to accept that your marriage is over. The future is unknown and that is scary … they haven’t figured out how having two homes is going to work and maybe they know you’re going to be moving but don’t know where they’re going to be living. Faced with so much uncertainty it is perfectly natural for them to want to go back to the security of what they knew, arguments and all.
2. Explain The Decision to Divorce:
Take the time to talk to your child and explain that the decision to end your marriage was not made lightly. Even if you did not initiate the divorce, this is a time when you need to be wearing your “mom and dad” hat and not just your own hat. Share with your child that the decision was made after much consideration and deliberation and that you and your ex worked hard to make your relationship work.
If you’re in a period of separation and reconciliation is a possibility, be honest. Acknowledge that it is a possibility but also that you may decide to continue living separately, that at the present time you don’t know what the outcome will be but your child can be assured that you won’t make this decision lightly.
It's vitally important that you do not set false expectations. Even if you are hoping for a reconciliation, it's probably best to keep your hopes to yourself right now.
3. Give Your Child Extra Reassurance:
Children often believe that the end of the marriage is their fault, that somehow something they did or did not do was the catalyst and that if they change that, then the marriage will magically fall back into place. Now’s the time to reinforce with your child that they are in no way responsible for the divorce, that this is solely between you and their other parent.
4. Redefine What Family Means:
The loss of your marriage may also leave you struggling with what it means to be a family. You’re questioning your views, albeit subconscious ones, of two parents, kids, a family home, pets, a yard …So too is your child. They may have friends whose parents are divorced, may have friends whose parents are in a high-conflict situation. Your child could be wondering if that's what their life is about to become.
Your child needs reassurance that even though you look a little different now, you are still a family. Families come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Your challenge is to recreate your own family, one that has its own traditions, one that embraces having two homes and one that embraces having two parents living apart and parenting together happily ever after.
Mandy Walker is a divorce coach and mediator. She offers divorce coaching one-on-one and through her online program, My Divorce Pal. She also blogs about all things divorce at Since My Divorce. You’ll find more parenting tips with her FREE audio program, What You Need To Know About Parenting And Divorce.