Parenting can be trying at the best of times. Imagine what it must be like if you are coming at the situation as a divorced or divorcing parent. Some of you are facing that very predicament right now. A good rule of thumb for dealing with your children is to avoid the “friendship” trap.
What Is a Friend?
People have been trying to figure this one out for eons. Kids begin navigating the waters when they enter school and are faced with a number of other children that they don’t know. How do you relate to other people in a way that endears you to them?
No one friendship meets all your needs. People have a variety of qualities that attract us. One friend may be fiscally responsible so you go to them for money advice. Another may be knowledgeable about love and romance so you bond over matters of the heart. Each person brings something special to your life.
Friends support, love, and see you for who you are. Friendships also end when they are no longer beneficial to both parties. It’s tough, but everyone is not meant to be in your life for the long haul.
I Need a Friend Right Now
This is not the case with your child. As a parent, the relationship is meant to last for a lifetime, through ups and downs, tears, fights and the lot. It is a different type of connection than friendship.
As a divorced parent, you may be experiencing a situation that is similar to a physical death – the death of a marriage. You need someone to talk to but that person is not your child. Avoid letting your emotional need trap them – and you, for that matter – in the middle of a messy situation.
In an effort to hold on to some semblance of what they had before, parents can unwittingly place their children in the middle when it comes to divorce. Even though both parents are not in the same household, it is important to be on the same page when it comes to dealing with the children.
Instead, what often happens is that the child becomes a sounding board for one or both parents. They hear about the faults of the other. Too much information is shared with their immature minds. In an attempt to thwart the other party from garnering too much affection, one parent will shower their children with gifts to gain their love.
This sets a dangerous precedent, especially for adolescent and teen children who are already in turmoil hormonally. Gifts can be used by kids to manipulate a desperate parent. They are hurting too and see this as a way to make themselves feel better. What friend wouldn’t give you something if it would make you feel better? Both parent and child are masking their pain and the consequences could be damaging.
Your child is not the one to seek friendship with, even during a divorce. Forge friendships with appropriate adults who can properly support you.