Dear Mom and Dad,
Please remember my life has been turned upside down and I never had a vote. I don't have a rulebook to negotiate waters totally unfamiliar to me. It is really hard for me to understand that my family has broken up. I feel scared that I will loose one or both of you. I don't know what to do with all the bad feelings I have. It would really mean a lot to me if you could do a few things to help me with the land mines I seem to be stepping on. Thanks for taking the time to listen.
1. Remember Your "ex" is my Family!
I now have the best and worst of both of you. I don't get to divorce anyone. Whatever you didn't like about your spouse, I now have to deal with all by myself. I don't know how, so I am going to have to figure that out without a rule- book. Your "ex" is my Dad or Mom so if you can't help me have a good relationship, please don't make things more difficult.
2. Don't Use Me!
I am not your messenger. Do not interrogate me. I don't know what will upset you. I am going to have to figure the "what information goes where" thing and that in itself is pretty crazy for my age. Do not "dump" your anger at your "ex" on me please. When I start to look, sound, and have mannerisms, like my parent your "ex" don't be surprised and don't blame me. You at one time wanted me to be a combination of both of you, remember!
When you interrogate me to get information about what is going on in "the other house" and you use that information for your "ex" issues, I will probably get in trouble. Make it safe for me to come to you to be able to talk about and get tools to handle things I don't know how to handle in "the other house".
3. Do get my Life back to Normal As soon as possible!
All I want is for us to be as normal as possible for a divorced family. I want to get back to focusing on school, my friends, my music, my sports so please help me. Maybe have some of my favorite foods, things we used to do, music, traditions for us as we recreate our new family. Remember it is free to be happy and grateful we are together. I don't want to be that kid whose parents embarrass him at the games because they are going through a divorce and fight all the time. I want you to support me as my family at my games like everyone else whose family is there to support him!
4. Don't Spoil Me!
This one is hard for me because I may seem like I want you to feel guilty and give me things I wouldn't normally get. However, it is not in my best interest. I will survive and move on if you give me normal, healthy, happy, discipline and cheerleading rather than guilty, people pleasing, spoiling and stuck.
5. Do Let me have Some Say in our New Home.
Does it really matter to you what color my room is if it makes me feel better that I at least had a say in one area of my life? Let me pick some foods that I want around when I am staying with you. Can we discuss where we are all going on vacation? You can give me choices. I want to feel like I have some places where what I think matters. When I talk to your "ex" my parent at your house please give me the privacy I deserve. This is my relationship with my parent and we are finding our way. You divorced my parent so leave us alone to figure things out.
6. Don't make your Dating life a part of my Life!
I may not have known my parents were having a hard time so this divorce thing is all new to me. I need to grieve the loss of my family, one home, and the world being something we all figured out together, so please don't rush bringing someone new into my world. I don't want to meet every one of your romantic interests. I again have no say whether this person is going to stay or leave. I may become attached and have to go through another loss if you decide, "wrong one".
7. Teach Me!
Adversity is part of life. If you teach me how we can get through this crisis and be happy again, it will help me when I get to create my own adversity. Be optimistic, tell me we will figure it out, give me tools to get through the bad days, show me how to be grateful, and don't let us loose our sense of humor for starters.
"Anyone can have a child and call themselves 'a parent'. A real parent is someone who puts that child above their own selfish needs and wants."
Dr. Anne Brown PhD, RN of Sausalito, California, is a psychotherapist, speaker, coach, and the author of Backbone Power: The Science of Saying No. Anne's approach is especially applicable to people affected by divorce. Backbone Power is a no nonsense self help guide to making decisions while having backbone and integrity in all your choices, short term and long term. In addition to helping the divorce community, Anne has over twenty years experience as the trusted advocate and advisor to influential corporate leaders, trial attorneys, athletes, leaders, physicians and others seeking actionable guidance. Brown is a graduate of the University of Virginia, BS in Nursing; Boston University, MS in Psychiatric-Mental Health in Nursing; and International University, PhD in Addiction Studies. In 1997 Brown also reached a personal goal of obtaining her Black Belt in Soo Bahk Do. You can contact Dr. Anne Brown through her website: www.BackbonePower.com .