Valentine’s Day is here and there are plenty of articles out there about how to prevent a divorce by showing your love to your spouse or how to deal with the first “love holiday” after your divorce. I looked through them to see if there was any interesting information I could pass on to my clients. While they all had good ideas, it was nothing novel or new.
If you are married, show your spouse how much you love them: do something special; be attentive; be creative. If you are divorced (or in the process of being divorced) stay away from social media, do something for yourself, spend the day with other singles. While it is all great advice, I think there is something that is not being addressed. That is, how to celebrate Valentine’s Day when you are getting divorced and you have children.
Divorce can be a confusing time for children. Little (or not so little) ones do not understand why their parents do not love each other anymore. Or understand why if their parents still love one another why they are getting divorced. Let’s be honest, this can be confusing to the adults involved. It only makes sense that children will have a difficult time understanding what it all means.
Children are sometimes worried about telling parents that they love them for fear the other parent will be hurt or upset. There may be feelings that they have to show more attention or love to one parent over the other. By setting some rules and having some conversations with the children, these concerns can be lessened and hopefully the children can feel more secure about the love their parents have.
Here are some tips on how to deal with children’s concerns this Valentine’s Day:
Help your children make or buy a card for your ex. It’s not about you. Your children want to show you both how much they love you. Let them. This little bit of good will can go a long way in your divorce. Just because you are no longer together as a couple doesn’t mean you can’t do something nice, even if it is something as simple as helping your child sign his or her name to a card.
Encourage the children to wish the other parent a Happy Valentine’s Day. Your child may be angry with the other parent for moving out or moving on, even if you have not encouraged this behavior. Reminding a child that both of his or her parents love them. Let them know that is always a good thing to tell someone how much you love them, even if he or she is angry or upset with that person.
If your ex is going to be spending Valentine’s Day with someone else, make plans to do something special with your child. Instead of you and your child focusing on the fact that the other parent is out with someone new, spend time together playing games, eating pizza, watching movies or whatever else will make the evening fun for you both. It’s a great opportunity for some bonding time with your child.
Talk to your ex in advance about Valentine’s Day. Yes, it is a greeting card company/flower shop holiday. However, some schools still allow children to pass out Valentines. Or maybe they have a dance or party. In planning together in advance, you can make sure that your child is prepared for the day. No one wants to run out to the drugstore at 8:00 the night before to pick through whatever is left over.
Don’t flaunt a new relationship in front of your ex and the children. This is true no matter what time of year. The “romance” of the holiday isn’t an excuse to exercise poor behavior. Before new partners are introduced to the kids, there should be a discussion between the parents. Likewise, children should not be the ones telling a parent about the other parent’s new partner. Common sense and courtesy should be used.
Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be a painful reminder of what you had together. Instead, you can focus on the positives that came from the relationship: your children.