Giving your Child Permission to Love the Other Parent
One of the biggest challenges facing separated parents is to allow children to love the other parent.
How can my child, who is the centre of my world, continue to love the parent who left them? If your child has NO contact with the other parent please read How to talk to your child about an absent parent.
The Big Question
You are very likely to be thinking, "How dare the other parent dump us like a piece of rubbish and expect the children to keep on loving them? They don’t deserve to see the children and why on earth should I refrain from criticising them? Why should I make it easy for the other parent? I am the one who picks up the pieces on a daily basis while they swan in once a week and take the kids out for a treat."
Don't feel guilty for feeling this. It's a healthy reaction to what you've been through, but now you need to find a way to stop this situation from hurting you and the children.
The Simple Answer
"The children" is the answer. Like it or not, your child is biologically fifty per cent the other parent. As you watch your child develop and grow, there will be times when you feel exasperated with them and think “Huh. Just like your father!” or you catch an expression on their face that reminds you of their mother. And if that other parent has hurt you, it can be very hard to have a daily reminder of them in the form of a small housemate. But if you criticise your ex, you are criticising half of your child!
Parent or Partner?
Remember the good qualities the other parent has as a parent, for example they may play sports with your child or have endless patience with activities such as fishing. If they were an irresponsible partner, does this make them a fun playmate for your child? If they were a dull partner, does this provide a restful and quiet time for your child? And if they were a disinterested partner and parent whilst you were together, maybe their sense of outrage or sadness will prompt them into closer involvement with your child after separation?
- Distinguish between the feelings you have for the other parent as an ex-partner and the feelings your child may have for their parent.
- Remember it is hard enough for them to lose daily contact with the other parent without feeling that they must lose them altogether “because it makes daddy cross” or “because it makes mummy cry”.
- Speak of the other parent in a positive and respectful manner. (However hard this may be!)
- If you feel the other parent does not deserve their child’s love, keep in mind you are doing it because the children deserve to have the best relationship with their parents that is possible.
- Make it easy for your child to talk about the time they spend with the other parent, by showing a pleasant and casual interest.
- Say to your child “It’s Ok that you still love dad. Even though dad and I have separated, we both still love you and it’s right that you should be able to love us both.”