** This post was written by Samantha Ewers – a contributor to Lady and the Blog. **
I once read something about Zach Braff that really resonated with me. Although divorced and remarried, his parents are on very good terms with one another. So much in fact, that they spend Thanksgiving together each year as one big family, with their current respective spouses, kids and all. It sounded like the coolest possible ending to an otherwise sad situation.
Unfortunately, divorce doesn’t always have a happy ending, and is almost always a difficult position for the child to be in. This is why HBO put together a heartfelt documentary from the perspective of kids dealing with divorce, and their rules on how parents should behave. The documentary, brought to us by executive producer Rosie O’Donnell, is moving, insightful, and incredibly important for families of divorce (both parents and children) to watch.
Some of the suggestions that the children came up with included, “Don’t make me the messenger,” “Don’t take your anger out on me,” and “Try to make sure that your kids get both parents kind of equally”. The program will have you holding back tears, especially if you are familiar with this delicate situation.
This is a program for every parent dealing with divorce and custody issues in particular, because it begs of the viewer to be aware of how their actions impact the child. Divorce is hard, any way you slice it, and even if you’re the best parent in the world, it is challenging at times to make the right decisions in this role. It is important that your child have a safe space to openly present their thoughts and feelings without fear of consequence, so that they do not internalize any of the blame or anger that may stem from the divorce. A strong support system goes a long way.
In addition to my experience in the field of clinical and counseling psychology (this Ivy League graduate degree has to serve for something!), I’ve been witness to matters of divorce in many aspects. In fact, in my current living situation, my partner has an eight-year old daughter that he shares with his ex-wife. The three of us love her tremendously, but as with most cases of divorce, the situation can be tolling on her. Like one child pointed out in the documentary, home is in the car, because she always goes back and forth between her parents’ homes. Unfortunately for our little girl, she shifts back and forth between her homes with a suitcase. Ultimately, that’s the reality of the situation. While we cannot make divorce appear picture-perfect, we can do our best to make it as comfortable as possible, and ensure that she absorbs every ounce of love from each of us. As a child of divorce myself, I find it helpful to remind our eight-year old that I understand her position, and she can talk to me about anything, not as her father’s significant other, but as a friend and someone who is on her side. Instead of feeling torn in the middle, she should feel collectively supported by all of her guardians. We’re an alternative family, but that only means there’s more love to go around.
I cannot recommend this documentary enough. Just by keeping an awareness of our actions, this program shows us that we have the power to prevent a great deal of stress and heartache on a young child. Full disclosure: keep a box of tissues nearby. There are a lot of life lessons in there for all of us.
“Don’t Divorce Me! Kids’ Rules For Parents on Divorce” debuts tonight (Thursday, September 20th) exclusively on HBO at 6:30pm ET/PT. Other airdates include September 26th at 7:30am, September 30th at 1:30pm, October 13th and 19th at 8:00am, and October 25th at 6:00am. The documentary will also be airing on select dates on HBO2 and HBO Family, be sure to check your local listings.