Building Bridges


Dealing with Loss
PART II (continued)

Boundaries

Children need protection from inappropriate responsibilities. Here are four specific ways you can help. 

1. Remember that your child is not your parent.
If you are like most people, the events surrounding your divorce are likely to trigger wishes for being comforted, being nurtured, being held and rocked, being taken care of, maybe even being reassured that "everything will be all right." Such feelings are normal when people deal with the kinds of losses that are inevitable when a marriage ends. You may wish, at some level, that you could be taken care of by a wonderful, loving, caring, powerful parent. 
    It is important, and healthy, to acknowledge such feelings, to honor them, and to find ways of dealing with them that work for you. It is equally important to recognize that in your interactions with your children, it is appropriate for you to nurture them, and not the other way around.

2. Remember that your child is not your partner.
A family member or friend might say to your child, "Now you are Mommy's (or Daddy's) partner." You might even hear yourself voicing such an idea.
    Your friends and relatives - or you, yourself - may perceive that you are feeling lonely. This is not all unusual or abnormal. It is appropriate for you to acknowledge your needs for human company, and to meet those needs in ways that are expressions of your own personal values. But remember that your children are not adults, are not marital partners to anyone, and are certainly not marital partners to either of their parents.

3. Remember that your child is not your buddy.
When your family is involved in divorce proceedings you are likely to have an enormous array of tasks you never thought you would face, and to have less time for recreation than ever before in your life. At this time in your life, when your partner is not available to you as a pal, and you are so busy and burdened that you hardly have time or room to breathe, you need someone to talk to more than ever before.
    If you are able to identify this normal need, it is important to find a way to meet it that is comfortable for you. It is important, too, to remember that your children are not your pals. Hikes, picnics, museum visits, trips to the zoo, concerts, movies, restaurant meals, and conversations while driving are as essential in your relationships with your children as they've ever been; but your children need your parenting, not your palship. You are the parent, not the pal. Your children are your children, not your pals.

4. Remember that your child is not your representative.
You may want to find something out from or about your child's other parent. You may want to send a message. You might want to make discreet inquiries. You may be curious. You may want to gather information. 
    Your mediator or attorney can help you decide what to do with your questions and your curiosity, and how to maintain appropriate communication in ways that will not be harmful to you and the people you care about. There are many options: face-to-face, attorney-to-attorney or with the help of a mediator, or via telephone, voice mail, fax, US Mail, e-mail, commercial courier, mutual friend, or trusted adult relative. This kind of assignment is usually not appropriate for a child, and almost certainly not for your own child.

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