A Child's Request
by: Amie Greenberg, JD, MBA and Barbara Greenberg, MD
Shannon sat on the edge of her bed. She thought about her life and how hard it had been lately.“My parents divorced. Now I live in two homes” she thought.
Shannon contemplated the speech she would make to her parents.“As a child, there are so many ‘rules’ that I have to follow. When you divorced, you changed everything and made it harder for me. So now, it is my turn to tell you my requests that will allow me to feel comfortable and love you both.”
This is for you Mom and Dad.
1. Don’t say mean things about my other parent. I love both of you.
2. Please don’t refer to my other parent as your “ex.” He is my father. She is my mother. Just call the other parent Shannon’s Mother or Shannon’s Father.
3. Don’t make me feel bad when I have to leave you and go to my other parent. I am lucky to have both you and to be able to spend time with both of you.
4. I have two homes and both places are my home. Please understand and respect that.
5. My things belong to me. Let me take them back and forth from my one home to the other. I promise I will bring them back!
6. Try to be flexible. You don’t always have to follow the written schedule. I might miss a special event or activity with my other parent.
7. If you see my other parent, please say hello. Don’t just ignore them! You were married to them at one time.
8. Can you sit together at school and other events? It’s uncomfortable for me to look out into the audience and see you on different sides of the room. I want to smile at both of you together.
9. Please don’t ask me to deliver messages to my other parent or put them in my backpack to hand over. That’s not my job. You can text or email just like I do!
10. If I want to call my other parent when I’m with you, please let me call. Sometimes I just need to say hello, because I miss them. Hearing their voice makes me feel better.
11. Don’t ask me questions about my other parent, our new home or what we did together. It doesn’t feel good to be grilled about these things.
12. When I leave you, I want to be able to share with my other parent on my terms. Don’t get angry when I talk about what we did together.
13. I hate it when the two of you argue in front of me or on the phone when I am there. I feel like it is my fault when you argue.
“Listening and learning from your children is a vital part of being a parent and understanding what they are feeling day by day,” says Amie. In California, parents are encouraged to co-parent for the benefit of their children.“While divorce can be painful, if Shannon’s parents can grant her requests, it will make life easier for her and for them,” adds Barbara.
Parenting in an intact family can be difficult. Add divorce, different parenting styles, conflict, and the result can be disastrous. Shannon is asking her parents to act as a team and follow guidelines to help each other and support their child.